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Angela Downing 

and Philip Locke 


This new edition of Downing and Locke's award-winning text-book has been thoroughly 
revised and rewritten by Angela Downing to offer an integrated account of structure, 
meaning and function in relation to context. Also used as a reference book, it provides 
the linguistic basis for courses and projects on translation, contrastive linguistics, 
stylistics, reading and discourse studies. It is accessible and reader-friendly throughout. 

Key features include: 

Chapters divided into modules of class-length materials 

Each new concept clearly explained and highlighted 

Authentic texts from a wide range of sources, both spoken and written, to illustrate 

grammatical usage 

Clear chapter and module summaries enabling efficient class preparation and 

student revision 

Exercises and topics for individual study 

Answer key for analytical exercises 

Comprehensive index 

Select bibliography 

Suggestions for further reading 

This up-to-date, descriptive grammar is a complete course for first degree and post- 
graduate students of English, and is particularly suitable for those whose native language 
is not English. 

Angela Downing is Professor Emeritus in the Department of English Language and 
Linguistics (English Philology I) at the Universidad Complutense, Madrid. 

The late Philip Locke taught at the Institute of Modern Languages and Translation at 
the Universidad Complutense, Madrid. 


A University Course 
Second edition 

Angela Downing and Philip Locke 

Q Routledge 

e, ^^ Taylor & Francis Gn 

s Group 

First published 1992 

by Prentice Hall International (UK) Ltd 

Routledge edition published 2002 by Routledge 

This second edition published 2006 

by Routledge 

2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon 0X14 4RN 

Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada 

by Routledge 

270 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10016 

Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group 

© 2006 Angela Downing and Philip Locke 

This edition published in the Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2006. 

"To purchase your own copy of this or any of Taylor & Francis or Routledge's 
collection of thousands of eBooks please go to' 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced 
or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other 
means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and 
recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without 
permission in writing from the publishers. 

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data 

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library 

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data 
A catalog record for this book has been requested 

ISBN10: 0-415-28787-1 ISBN13: 9-78-0-415-28787-6 (pbk) 
ISBN10: 0-415-28786-3 ISBN13: 9-78-0-415-28786-9 (hbk) 

This book is for: 


and to the memory of Philip Locke 


Foreword xi 

Preface to the second edition xiii 

Acknowledgements xv 

Introduction xvii 

Table ofnotational symbols xxi 

1 Basic concepts 1 

Module 1 Language and meaning 3 

Module 2 Linguistic forms and syntactic functions 9 

Module 3 Negation and expansion 2 1 

Exercises 28 

2 The skeleton of the message: Introduction to clause 

structure 32 

Module 4 Syntactic functions and structures of the clause 34 

Module 5 Subject and Predicator 42 

Module 6 Direct, Indirect and Prepositional Objects 50 

Module 7 Subject and Object Complements 64 

Module 8 Adjuncts 69 

Further reading 76 

Exercises 76 

3 The development of the message: Complementation 

of the verb 8 1 

Introduction: Major complementation patterns and valency 83 

Module 9 Intransitive and copular patterns 85 

Module! Transitive patterns 90 

Module 1 1 Complementation by finite clauses 100 

Module 12 Complementation by non-finite clauses 108 

Summary of complementation patterns 114 

Further reading 116 

Exercises 116 

4 Conceptualising patterns of experience: Processes, 

participants, circumstances 120 

Module 13 Conceptualising experiences expressed as situation types 122 

Module 14 Materia] processes of doing and happening 128 

Module 15 Causative processes 132 

Module 16 Processes of transfer 137 

Module 17 Conceptualising what we think, perceive and feel 139 

Module 18 Relational processes of being and becoming 144 

Module 1 9 Processes of saying, behaving and existing 151 

Module 20 Expressing attendant circumstances 155 
Module 21 Conceptualising experiences from a different angle: 

Nominalisation and grammatical metaphor 160 

Further reading 167 

Exercises 167 

5 Interaction between speaker and hearer: Linking speech 

acts and grammar 1 74 

Module 22 Speech acts and clause types 176 

Module 23 The declarative and interrogative clause types 180 

Module 24 The exclamative and imperative clause types 190 

Module 25 Indirect speech acts, clause types and discourse functions 197 

Module 26 Questions, clause types and discourse functions 201 

Module 27 Directives: getting people to carry out actions 205 

Further reading 212 

Exercises 213 

6 Organising the message: Thematic and information 

structures of the clause 220 

Module 28 Theme: the point of departure of the message 222 

Module 29 The distribution and focus of information 238 

Module 30 The interplay of Theme-Rheme and Given-New 246 

Further reading 263 

Exercises 263 

7 Expanding the message: Clause combinations 270 

Module 31 Clause combining 272 

Module 32 Types of relationship between clauses 277 

Module 33 Elaborating the message 281 

Module 34 Extending the message 285 

Module 35 Enhancing the message 290 

Module 36 Reporting speech and thought 299 

Further reading 309 

Exercises 309 


8 Talking about events: The Verbal Group 315 

Module 37 Expressing our experience of events 317 

Module 38 Basic structures of the Verbal Group 323 

Module 39 Organising our experience of events 331 

Module 40 The semantics of phrasal verbs 336 

Further reading 343 

Exercises 343 

9 Viewpoints on events: Tense, aspect and modality 350 

Module 4 1 Expressing location in time through the verb: tense 352 
Module 42 Past events and present time connected: Present Perfect 

and Past Perfect 361 

Module 43 Situation types and the Progressive aspect 369 

Module 44 Expressing attitudes towards the event: modality 379 

Further reading 394 

Exercises 394 

10 Talking about people and things: The Nominal Group 399 

Module 45 Expressing our experience of people and things 40 1 
Module 46 Referring to people and things as definite, indefinite, 

generic 417 

Module 47 Selecting and particularising the referent: the determiner 423 

Module 48 Describing and classifying the referent: the pre-modifier 435 

Module 49 Identifying and elaborating the referent: the post-modifier 446 

Module 50 Noun complement clauses 457 

Further reading 462 

Exercises 462 

1 1 Describing persons, things and circumstances: Adjectival 

and Adverbial groups 473 

Module 51 Adjectives and the adjectival group 475 

Module 52 Degrees of comparison and intensification 484 

Module 53 Complementation of the adjective 494 

Module 54 Adverbs and the adverbial group 502 

Module 55 Syntactic functions of adverbs and adverbial groups 508 

Module 56 Modification and complementation in the adverbial group 515 

Further reading 521 

Exercises 521 

12 Spatial, temporal and other relationships: The Prepositional 
Phrase 529 

Module 57 Prepositions and the Prepositional Phrase 531 

Module 58 Syntactic functions of the Prepositional Phrase 540 

Module 59 Semantic features of the Prepositional Phrase 546 


Module 60 Stranded prepositions; discontinuous prepositional phrases 556 

Further reading 559 

Exercises 559 

Answer Key 564 

Select Bibliography 591 

Index 596 



It is now 1 3 years since the publication of Angela Downing and Philip Locke's A University 
Course in English Grammar, which broke new ground by offering to advanced students 
of English a comprehensive course, based on Halliday's Systemic Functional Grammar. 
It went beyond the merely structural, to present an integrated account of structure and 
function, which gives students the information they need in order to link the grammar 
of English to the overall structure of discourse and to the contexts in which it is produced. 

Ever since its publication, the book has been used in many countries in South America, 
the Middle East and Europe, including of course Spain, to whose tertiary education 
systems both authors devoted the majority of their working lives. Downing and Locke's 
grammar, while clearly rooted in Hallidayan linguistics, also responds to a number of 
other influences, including the grammars of Quirk and his colleagues. However, it also 
made its own important contribution to our knowledge and understanding of many 
points of English grammar, and has been widely cited by scholars working within 
functional linguistics. 

Sadly, Philip Locke died in 2003, but he would, I am sure, have been very proud of 
this new edition of the work, which still bears his name and has been retitled as English 
Grammar: A University Course. The new version of the grammar embodies three themes 
evident in Angela Downing's research work over the last decade or so, themes which 
reflect the directions in which functional linguistics has moved in the late twentieth 
century and the beginning of the twenty-first. 

First, the linking of grammar to the structure and functioning of discourse, already 
evident in the first edition, has been taken still further, giving students an even better 
grasp of aspects of text production in which even advanced foreign learners of English 
are often rather weak. 

Second, the account of English grammar offers benefits from the recognition 
that discourse is not a static product, but a constantly changing, negotiated process: 
as interaction proceeds, interlocutors build up and modify mental representations of 
their addresses, the context and the discourse itself. This perspective on language leads 
to the integration, within this new version of the grammar, of ideas from cognitive 

Finally, although the first edition of the grammar drew on a wide range of sources to 
show language in use, the new edition makes considerable use of examples from the 
large corpora now available for searching by computer (notably the 100-million-word 
British National Corpus), as well as other textual materials collected by Angela Downing. 

The result is that the grammar is attractively illustrated by authentic text samples from 
many registers of English, ranging from very informal conversation through to more 
formal productions. 

This new version of the Downing and Locke grammar will serve not only as a course 
book for new generations of advanced students of English, but also as a reference 
source for students, teachers and researchers looking for a detailed treatment of English 
grammar which integrates structural, functional and cognitive perspectives into a 
coherent and satisfying whole. 

Christopher Butler 

Honorary Professor 

University of Wales Swansea 



The structure of this book remains essentially the same as that of the first edition. The 
most obvious difference is the collapsing of chapters 1 1 and 12 into one (adjectival and 
adverbial groups), leaving 12 (prepositions and the prepositional phrase) as the final 
chapter. Following the welcome feedback from reviewers and consultants, there has 
also been some rearrangement of the material: in particular, the section on negation 
has been brought forward to Chapter 1 , and the syntax of prepositional and phrasal verbs 
is made more explicit in Chapter 2. Chapter 5 has also been rearranged, in order to clarify 
the correspondences between clause types and their speech act functions. 

Some of the modules have been considerably rewritten, in order to accomodate the 
description of certain elements that had not been dealt with. Still others were partly 
rewritten in order to incorporate certain insights and research findings published since 
1 990 or, if earlier, not included in the first edition. The motion event analysis in Chapter 
8 is one of these, and the semantics of prepositions in Chapter 12 is another. A few 
analytical changes have been made, notably the re-analysis of those features that were 
grouped together under the function labelled 'predicator complement'. This re-analysis 
has been made possible by a clearer specification of the criteria adopted for the 
classification of clause constituents. 

A considerable number of new textual illustrations have been incorporated, replacing 
some of the previous ones. Also introduced are sections on further reading and a select 

Our debts to our predecessors in writing this second revised edition are clearly 
now more numerous and greater than before. In addition to the wealth of information 
and accurate detail of the various grammars by Randolph Quirk, Sydney Greenbaum, 
Geoffrey Leech and Jan Svartvik, we now have the new dimensions provided by the 
Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English (Douglas Biber, Stig Johansson, Geoffrey 
Leech, Susan Conrad and Edward Finegan) and the Cambridge Grammar of the English 
Language (Rodney Huddleston and Geoffrey K. Pullum, together with their collaborators). 
Their inspiration will be evident in many of the chapters in this book. The insights of 
Michael Halliday were influential in the first edition and they are still present, but 
once again with certain modifications that Halliday may not agree with, modifications 
made in order to suit the rather different learning objectives of many of our readers. 
Unfortunately, the third edition of An Introduction to Functional Grammarbecame available 
only after the relevant chapters of this book had been completed. 

Reference to individual publications cannot be made in this paragraph, but all works 
consulted are reflected in the select bibliography and many in the sections on further 

Among the many consultants, friends and colleagues who have made helpful comments 
on the previous edition, I would especially like to thank Andrei Stoevsky (University of 
Sofia), who made detailed comments on every chapter, and Chris Butler (University 
of Wales Swansea) who has given invaluable assistance and advice through two 
editions of this book. Also much appreciated were the many useful comments made by 
Mike Hannay and Lachlan Mackenzie (Free University, Amsterdam), Ana Hansen 
(Universidad Nacional de Cuyo, Mendoza), Mohsen Ghadessy (University of Brunei), 
Martin Wynne (University of Oxford), Belinda Maia (University of Oporto), Marta 
Carretero and Elena Martinez Caro (Universidad Complutense, Madrid), Amaya 
Mendikoetxea, Rachel Whittaker and Laura Hidalgo (Universidad Autonoma, Madrid) 
and Carmina Gregori (University of Valencia). I remember with gratitude Emilio Lorenzo 
Criado, of the Real Academia Espanola, who encouraged us to start in the first place. 
1 am indebted to Bruce Fraser (University of Boston) for some excellent suggestions on 
the presentation of the materials, and to Geoff Thompson (University of Liverpool) for 
the best real-life spontaneous utterance of multiple left-detachment. The responsibility 
for any failings in the text lies with the authors, but any improvement and credit there 
may be I gratefully share with them. 

I am grateful to Lou Burnard for permission to use examples from the British National 
Corpus and to Antonio Moreno Ortiz for the use of the BNC Indexer; also to Miguel 
Trevino and Enrique Hidalgo for preparing the diagrams. I also want to thank my students 
and the many tutors and students who have contacted me by e-mail from Saudi Arabia, 
Iraq, China and other places to request information, to ask questions or make comments 
on particular points of grammar. Thanks also to Jean Smears for allowing a personal 
letter of hers to be published as an illustrative text, and to John Hollyman for spontaneous 
conversations recorded with some of his students at the University of Bristol. 

I especially wish to thank Louisa Semlyen of Routledge for her unfailing patience, 
support and confidence in me throughout this revision. I am grateful to our publisher, 
Routledge, for technical and expert assistance. My thanks go to Katherine Davey, 
Production Editor at Routledge, Maggie Lindsey-Jones of Keystroke and Ruth Jeavons 
for taking care of the book's progress up to publication; also to Ben Hulme-Cross of 
Routledge for his work on the design of the text. Thanks are due to Isobel Fletcher de 
Tellez for reading through the whole of the manuscript of the second edition and making 
some useful suggestions. To Gerard M-F Hill I want to express my thanks for his patience 
and my appreciation of his energy, thoroughness and good judgement as copy-editor 
and indexer in preparing the script for publication. 

Finally, I wish to thank my daughters Laura, Alicia and Raquel, my twin sons Enrique 
and Eduardo, and my grandchildren Natalia, Daniel, Jorge, Martina and Pablo, for the 
joy and fun they bring to everything. Without their presence the writing of this second 
edition would have taken place in a very different setting. 

I am writing now in my own name for, sadly, Philip Locke was not able to accompany 
me on the venture of this second edition. To him I dedicate this edition and to my 
husband Enrique Hidalgo, without whose support, resilience and belief in mountains as 
therapy this second edition would not have been completed. 

Angela Downing 
Madrid, July 2005 



All the material in this book appears with the permission of those who hold the copyright. 
The authors and publishers thank the following for their permission to reproduce extracts 
of the copyright material: 

Smart Publications ( for 'Health and Wellness Update'; 
Dennis Publishing Ltd for the following publications from The Week. 'In Rushdie's 
Shadow', 9 July 2003; 'How to Survive a Columbian Kidnapping' and 'What the Scientists 
are Saying . . . Fire Threat to Apes', both 8 March 2003; 'The Week' by Jeremy O'Grady, 
8 November 2003; A Robot for Granny', 27 December 2003; 'The Archers: What 
Happened Last Week', 22 March 2003; 'A Purple Polar Bear ...',26 July 2003; 'The 
"Lost" Van Gogh', 22 November, 2003; 'The Main Stories ... It Wasn't All Bad', 
31 January 2004; The Telegraph Group Ltd for 'Breaking and Entering: How British 
Burglars Pick Their Victims', appearing in The Telegraph, 2003; BBC Enterprises for The 
Complete Yes Prime Minister, edited by Jonathan Lynn and Antony Jay; Blackwell Ltd 
for 'Oxford Today', volume 1, number 3, pp. 37 and 58 appearing in Oxford Today and 
reprinted with permission of the Chancellor and Scholars of Oxford University; The 
Bodley Head for Don't Fall Off The Mountain, Shirley Maclaine and Zen and the Art of 
Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig; Cambridge University Press for The Universe 
Around Us, James Jeans; Casarotto Company Ltd for extracts from J. G. Ballard; Chatto 
and Windus for Just Between Ourselves, Alan Ayckbourn; Curtis Brown London Ltd for 
permission to reproduce Doctor on the Boil, Copyright Richard Gordon 1973; David 
Higham Associates for Akenfield, Ronald Blythe, and The Spy Who Came In From The 
Cold, John le Carre; Hamish Hamilton Ltd for The New Confessions, William Boyd; Hamish 
Hamilton Ltd and Houghton Mifflin Company for The Long Goodbye, Raymond Chandler; 
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Ltd for North to the Orient, Copyright 1935 and renewed 1963 
by Anne Morrow Lindbergh; Harper Collins Publishers for Beat Jet Lag, Kathleen Mayes; 
Harrap Publishing Group Ltd for The Boundaries of Science, Magnus Pike; Hogarth Press 
and Random Century Group for Mrs Dalloway, Virginia Woolf; Laurence Pollinger Ltd 
and the Estate of Frieda Lawrence Ravagli for The Lost Girl, D. H. Lawrence; Longman 
Group UK for Advanced Conversational English, Crystal and Davy, and Metals and Alloys, 
H. Moore; The MacDonald Group for Futura Publications' Lightning in May, Gordon 
Parker; Martin Seeker & Warburg Ltd and Octopus Publishing Group Library for The 
British Museum is Falling Down and How Far Can You Go, David Lodge, and The Wedding 
Jug from Twenty Stories, Philip Smith; Methuen and Octopus Publishing Group Library 

for Find Me in Plays by Women: Volume 2, Olwyn Wymark; Oxford University Press for 
Varieties of Spoken English, Dickinson and Mackin; Peters Fraser & Dunlop for Brideshead 
Revisited, Evelyn Waugh; Penguin Books for Artists Talking: Five artists talk to Anthony 
Schooling, in the Success with English: Outlook series ed. G. Broughton. Billy Phelan's 
Greatest Game, Copyright 1975 by William Kennedy, used by permission of Viking 
Penguin, a division of Penguin Books USA Inc.; Penguin Books and The British Museum 
Press for The Innocent Anthropologist, Nigel Barley; The Society of Authors on behalf of 
the Bernard Shaw Estate for A Sunday on the Surrey Hills, G. B. Shaw; Thames & Hudson 
Ltd for Recollections and Reflections, Bruno Bettelheim; Copyright 1990 The Time Inc. 
Magazine Company, reprinted by permission 'Education: doing bad and feeling good', 
Charles Krauthammer, 5 February 1990; Copyright 1986 Time Warner Inc., reprinted 
by permission, 'Turning brown, red and green', 15 December 1986; Victor Gollancz Ltd 
for The Citadel, A. J. Cronin; Virago Press for Nothing Sacred, Angela Carter; William 
Heinemann Ltd and David Higham Associates for The Heart of the Matter, Copyright 1 948 
Verdant SA, Graham Greene; William Heinemann Ltd and The Octopus Publishing 
Group Library for The Godfather, Mario Puzo; William Heinemann Ltd for Making a New 
Science, James Gleick. 

Every effort has been made to trace and acknowledge ownership of copyright. The 
publishers will be glad to make suitable arrangements with any copyright holders whom 
it has not been possible to contact. 




This book has been written primarily for undergraduate and graduate students of English 
as a foreign or second language. It is also addressed to tutors and others interested 
in applying a broadly functional approach to language teaching in higher education. It 
assumes an intermediate standard of knowledge and practical handling of the language 
and, from this point of departure, seeks to fulfil the following aims: 

1 to further students' knowledge of English through exploration and analysis; 

2 to help students acquire a global vision of English, rather than concentrate on 
unrelated areas; 

3 to see a grammar as providing a means of understanding the relation of form 
to meaning, and meaning to function, in context; 

4 to provide a basic terminology which, within this framework, will enable students 
to make these relationships explicit. 

While not pretending to be exhaustive, which would be impossible, its wide coverage 
and functional approach have been found appropriate not only in first-degree courses 
but also in postgraduate courses and as a background resource for courses, publications 
and work on translation, stylistics, reading projects and discourse studies. 


We distinguish several ways in which grammar is functional. In the first place, adopting 
a broadly systemic-functional view, we base our approach on the assumption that 
all languages fulfil two higher-level or meta-functions in our lives. One is to express our 
interpretation of the world as we experience it (sometimes called the 'ideational' or the 
'representational' function); the other is to interact with others in order to bring about 
changes in the environment (the 'interpersonal' function). The organisation of the message 
in such a way as to enable representation and interaction to cohere represents a third 
(the 'textual' meta-function), and this, too, is given its place in a functional grammar. 

In the second place, the regular patterns of different kinds that can be distinguished 
reflect the uses which a language serves. For instance, the structural patterns known as 

'declarative', 'interrogative' and 'imperative' serve the purposes of expressing a multitude 
of types of social behaviour. In this area we draw on the pragmatic concepts of speech 
act, politeness, relevance and inference to explain how speakers use and interpret 
linguistic forms and sequences in English within cultural settings. 

When we come to describe the more detailed mechanisms of English, we also make 
use of the notion of 'function' to describe syntactic categories such as Subjects and 
Objects, semantic roles such as Agent and informational categories such as Theme 
and Rheme, Given and New. These different types of function constitute autonomous 
dimensions of analysis, so that there is no one-to-one relationship between them. Rather, 
we shall find that they can conflate together in different ways, the choice of one or other 
being largely determined by such factors as context, both situational and linguistic, 
particularly what has gone before in the message, by the speaker-hearer relationship 
and by speakers' communicative purposes. 

Third, this type of grammar is functional in that each linguistic element is seen not 
in isolation but in relation to others, since it has potential to realise different functions. 
Structural patterns are seen as configurations of functions, whether of participants 
and processes, of modifiers and head of, for instance, a noun, or of Subject, verb and 
Complements, among others. These in turn are realised in a variety of ways according 
to the communicative effect desired. Speakers and writers are free, within the resources 
a particular language displays, to choose those patterns which best carry out their 
communicative purposes at every stage of their interaction with other speakers and 

With these considerations in mind, the present book has been designed to place 
meaning firmly within the grammar and, by stressing the meaningful functions of gram- 
matical forms and structures, to offer a description of the grammatical phenomena of 
English in use, both in speech and writing. This book, we hope, may serve as a foundation 
for further study in specific areas or as a resource for the designing of other materials 
for specific purposes. 


The grammatical content of the course is presented in three blocks: 

a first chapter giving a bird's-eye view of the whole course and defining the basic 

concepts and terms used in it; 

seven chapters describing clausal and sentence patterns, together with their 

corresponding elements of structure, from syntactic, semantic, textual and 

communicative-pragmatic points of view; and 

five chapters dealing similarly with nominal, verbal, adjectival, adverbial and 

prepositional groups and phrases. 

In each case the aim is that of describing each pattern or structural element in use, 
rather than that of entering in depth into any particular theory. Chapter titles attempt 
to reflect, as far as possible, the communicative viewpoints from which the description 
is made. 


The chapters are divided into 'modules' (sixty in all), each one being conceived as a 
teaching and learning unit with appropriate exercises and activities grouped at the end 
of each chapter. 

Each module begins with a summary, which presents the main matters of interest. 
It is designed to assist both tutor and students in class preparation and to offer a review 
for study purposes. 


Many of the one-line examples which illustrate each grammatical point have been drawn 
or derived from actual utterances observed by the authors. Some of these have been 
shortened or simplified in order to illustrate a grammatical point with maximum clarity. 
A further selection of examples is taken from the British National Corpus and other 
acknowledged sources. These have not been modified. 

In addition we have made regular use of short excerpts of connected speech and 
writing from a wide variety of authentic sources. Our intention here is to illustrate the 
natural use of the features being described. 

Exercises and activities 

Each of the sixty modules which make up the course is accompanied by a varying number 
of practice exercises and activities. Some involve the observation and identification 
of syntactic elements and their semantic functions, or of the relations between them; 
others call for the manipulation or completion of sentences in various meaningful ways; 
grammatical topics are sometimes proposed for discussion between pairs or groups of 
students; mini-projects are suggested for individual research by students based on their 
own reading, experiences and materials gathered outside the class; topics are proposed 
for the writing of original letters, short articles, narratives, descriptions and dialogues 
for social purposes. 

Some exercises involve the interpretation of meanings and intentions which are to 
be inferred from the use of particular forms and structures within certain contexts. The 
different areas of grammar lend themselves to a wide variety of practical linguistic 
activities limited only by the time factor. Those proposed here can be selected, adapted, 
amplified or omitted, according to need. 

Answers are provided at the end of the book for those analytical exercises which 
have a single solution. There are many activities, however, that have no solution of this 
kind, such as discussions and explanations of grammatical topics. Activities involving 
the interpretation of meanings or those whose solution is variable are either not keyed 
at all or are accompanied by a suggested solution, since it is felt that they are more 
appropriately left to classroom discussion. 

It is the opinion of the authors that university study should not attend solely to the 
attainment of certain practical end-results. Its value lies to a great extent in the thinking 
that goes on in the process of ensuring the results, not only in the results themselves. 
It is rather in the performance of a task that the learning takes place. The premature 
reference to a key negates the whole purpose of the tasks and should be resisted at 
all costs. 



First of all, it must be pointed out that the chapters which comprise this book can be 
used selectively, either singly or in blocks. In starting with the clause, our aim has been 
to provide a global frame, both syntactic and semantic, into which the lower-ranking 
units of nominal, verbal and other groups naturally fit, as can be seen in Chapter 2. It is 
perfectly possible, however, to reverse this order, starting with the verbal or nominal 
groups and using the subsequent chapters as a course on grammar 'below the clause', 
if this is found more convenient. Morphological information is provided in each of these 

Similarly, chapters 2 and 3 together provide an introduction to functional syntax, 
while chapters 5 and 7 address basic semantic roles, and tense, aspect and modality, 
respectively. Other chapters, such as 10, 11 and 12, contain extensive sections on the 
semantics of the unit under discussion. Chapter 4 deals with the clause as a vehicle for 
interaction through language, and 6 with the grammatical resources used in information 
packaging. Related areas and topics are 'signposted' by cross-references. 

When this book is used as a basis for classroom teaching of English language at 
universities, it may be treated as a resource book by approaching it in the following 

First, either, by presenting the 'Summary' outlined at the beginning of each module 
and amplifying it according to the time allotted, with reference to appropriate parts 
of the module; or. by taking an illustrative text as a starting-point, and drawing out 
the meanings, forms and functions dealt with in the module. 
Then, the complete module can be read by the students out of class and any 
suggested exercises prepared. Some may be assigned to different students and 
discussed collectively. Others may more usefully be prepared by all members of 
the class. Alternatively, for assessment purposes, students may be allowed to build 
up a dossier of exercises of their own choice. Certain exercises can be done 
collectively and orally in class, without previous preparation. Students should be 
encouraged to bring in selections of their own texts, whether self-authored or 
collected from specific genres, for presentation and discussion within a group. 
A further session may be devoted to clarification of points raised as a result of 
students' reading and of carrying out the exercises. 

Whether the book is studied with or without guidance, access to the grammatical terms 
and topics treated in it is facilitated in four ways: 

1 by the initial list of chapter and module headings; 

2 by the section and subsection headings listed at the beginning of each chapter; 

3 by the alphabetical list of items, terms and topics given in the general Index at the 
end of the book. 

4 by the abundant cross-references which facilitate the linking of one area to another. 
Reference is made to the number and section of the module in which an item is 









finite clause 



non-fin. cl 

non-finite clause 



-ing c\ 

-ing participial clause 


direct object 

-en cl 

past participial clause 


indirect object 

inf. cl 

infinitive clause 


prepositional object 

to-inf. cl 

to-infinitive clause 


oblique object 






nominal group 


Complement of the subject 


adjectival group 


Complement of the object 


adverbial group 



Locative/ Goal Complement 


prepositional phrase 




verbal group 










modifier (pre- and 

















verb (as word class) 


complement (of noun, adjective, 


present participle 

adverb and preposition) 

v to-inf 





past participle 


auxiliary verb 


lexical verb, main verb 












complex sentence 









end of tone unit 

rising tone 

falling tone 

rising-falling tone 

falling-rising tone 

letters are used to indicate 

the peak of information focus 

in the tone unit 

'unacceptable or ungrammatical form 

(?) doubtfully acceptable 

( ) optional element 

/ alternative form 

+ coordination, addition 

X dependency 

embedded unit 

keyed exercise 
1 , 2, etc. superscript marking item in extract 
BNC British National Corpus 

BrE British English 

AmE American English 

vs versus 

Pauses from brief to long 

British National Corpus 

Examples from the British National Corpus cite their source by a 3-letter code and 
sentence number. Most of the source texts are copyright and may not be cited or re- 
disseminated except as part of the Corpus. Full details of every source and the BNC 
project itself can be found on its website (, which is 



Module 1 : Language and meaning 3 

1.1 Communicative acts 3 

1.2 The content of communication 4 

1 .3 Three ways of interpreting clause structure 5 

1.3.1 The clause as representation: transitivity structures 5 

1.3.2 The clause as exchange: mood structures 6 

1.3.3 The clause as message: thematic structures 6 

1 .3.4 Combining the three types of structure 7 

Module 2: Linguistic forms and syntactic functions 9 

2.1 Syntactic categories and relationships 9 

2.2 Testing for constituents 9 

2.3 Units and rank of units 11 

2.4 Classes of units 12 

2.4.1 Classes of clauses 12 

2.4.2 Classes of groups 16 

2.4.3 Classes of words 16 

2.4.4 Classes of morphemes 16 

2.5 The concept of unit structure 1 7 

2.5.1 Syntactic elements of clauses 17 

2.5.2 Syntactic elements of groups 18 

2.5.3 Componence, realisation and function 19 

Module 3: Negation and expansion 21 

3.1 Negative and interrogative clause structures 21 
3.1.1 The finite operator 21 

3.2 Clausal negation 22 
3.2.1 Interrogative clauses 22 

3.3 No-negation vs nof-negation + any 23 

3.4 Any and other non-assertive words 23 

3.5 The scope of negation 25 

3.6 Local negation 25 

3.7 Expanding linguistic units 26 

3.7.1 Coordination 26 

3.7.2 Subordination 27 

3.7.3 Embedding 28 

Exercises 28 


A functional grammar aims to match forms to function and meaning in context. This 
module introduces the three strands of meaning that form the basis of a functional 
interpretation of grammar: the representational, the interpersonal and the textual. 

Each of these strands is encoded in the clause (or simple sentence) as a type of 
structure. The three structures are mapped onto one another, illustrating how the three 
types of meaning combine in one linguistic expression. 


Let us start from the basic concept that language is for communication. Here is part 
of a recorded conversation taken from a sociological project of the University of Bristol. 
The speakers are Janice, a girl who runs a youth club and disco in an English town, 
and Chris, one of the boys in the club, who is 19 and works in a shop. In the dialogue, 
we can distinguish various types of communicative act, or speech act, by which people 
communicate with each other: making statements, asking questions, giving directives 
with the aim of getting the hearer to carry out some action, making an offer or promise, 
thanking or expressing an exclamation. 

Offer J: If you like, I'll come into your shop tomorrow and get some 

more model aeroplane kits. 

O.K. Don't forget to bring the bill with you this time. 
I won't. 

Do you enjoy working there? 

It's all right, I suppose. Gets a bit boring. It'll do for a while. 
I would have thought you were good at selling things. 
I don't know what to do really. I've had other jobs. My Dad 
keeps on at me to go into his business. He keeps offering me 
better wages, 

but the last thing to do is to work for him! 

Why? You don't know my old man! I 
wouldn't work for him! He always 
wanted me to, but we don't get on. . . . 















Echo question 




Question D'you think it's possible to get me on a part-time Youth 

Leadership Course? 
Offer/Promise J: I'll ring up tomorrow, Chris, and find out for you. 
Thanking C: Thanks a lot. 

In a communicative exchange such as this, between two speakers, the kind of meaning 
encoded as questions, statements, offers, reminders and thanks is interpersonal mean- 
ing. Asking and stating are basic communicative acts. The thing asked for or stated may 
be something linguistic - such as information or an opinion (Do you enjoy working there? 
It's all right, I suppose) - or it may be something non-linguistic, some type of goods and 
services, such as handing over the aeroplane kits. 

This non-linguistic exchange may be verbalised - by, for instance, Here you are - but 
it need not be. Typically, however, when goods and services are exchanged, verbal 
interaction takes place too; for instance, asking a favour (Do you think it's possible to get 
me on a part-time Youth Leadership Course?) or giving a promise (I'll ring up tomorrow, 
Chris, and find out for you) are carried out verbally. 

The grammatical forms that encode two basic types of interpersonal communication 
are illustrated in section 1.3.2. The whole area is dealt with more fully in Chapter 5. 


Every speech act, whether spoken or written, takes place in a social context. A telephone 
conversation, writing a letter, buying a newspaper, giving or attending a lecture, are all 
contexts within which the different speech acts are carried out. Such contexts have 
to do with our own or someone else's experience of life and the world at large, that is, 
the doings and happenings in which we are involved or which affect us. 

Any happening or state in real life, or in an imaginary world of the mind, can be 
expressed through language as a situation or state of affairs. Used in this way, the 
terms 'situation' or 'state of affairs ' do not refer directly to an extra-linguistic reality 
that exists in the real world, but rather to the speaker's conceptualisation of it. The com- 
ponents of this conceptualisation of reality are semantic roles or functions and may 
be described in very general terms as follows: 

1 processes: that is, actions, events, states, types of behaviour; 

2 participants: that is, entities of all kinds, not only human, but inanimate, concrete 
and abstract, that are involved in the processes; 

3 attributes: that is, qualities and characteristics of the participants; 

4 circumstances: that is, any kind of contingent fact or subsidiary situation which 
is associated with the process or the main situation. 


The following example from the text shows one possible configuration of certain 
semantic roles: 


'II come 

into your shop 






The kind of meaning expressed by these elements of semantic structure is represen- 
tational meaning, or meaning that has to do with the content of the message. The 
various types of process, participants, attributes and circumstances are outlined in 
the following sections and described more fully in Chapter 4. 


The clause or simple sentence is the basic unit that embodies our construal of repre- 
sentational meaning and interpersonal meaning. The clause is also the unit whose 
elements can be reordered in certain ways to facilitate the creation of textual meaning. 
The textual resources of the clause, such as the active-passive alternative, enable the 
representational strand and the interpersonal strand of meaning to cohere as a message, 
not simply as a sentence in isolation, but in relation to what precedes it in the discourse. 

Each type of meaning is encoded by its own structures; the three types of structure 
combine to produce one single realisation in words. 

To summarise, the three kinds of meaning derive from the consideration of a clause 
as: (a) the linguistic representation of our experience of the world; (b) a communicative 
exchange between persons; (c) an organised message or text. We now turn to the three 
types of structure that implement these meanings. 

1.3.1 The clause as representation: transitivity structures 

The representational meaning of the clause is encoded through the transitivity 
structures, whose elements of structure or functions include: Agent, Recipient, Affected, 
Process, Attribute and Circumstance, as described in Chapter 4. Some of these make 
up the semantic structure of the following example: 


will give 


the bill 







With a process of 'doing' such as the action of giving, the Agent is that participant which 
carries out the action referred to by the verb; the Recipient is that participant 
who receives the 'goods' or 'information' encoded as the Affected. Circumstances 
attending the process are classified as locative, temporal, conditional, concessive, causal, 
resultant, etc. 


1 .3.2 The clause as exchange: mood structures 

When a speaker interacts with others to exchange information, or to influence their 
behaviour and get things done, she adopts for herself a certain role, such as 'questioner' 
and, in doing so, assigns a complementary role, such as 'informant', to her addressee. 
Unless the conversation is very one-sided, the roles of 'questioner' and 'informant' tend 
to alternate between the interlocutors engaged in a conversation, as can be seen in the 
exchange of speech roles between Chris and Janice in the text on page 3. 

The clause is the major grammatical unit used by speakers to ask questions, make 
statements and issue directives. The exchange of information is typically carried out 
by the indicative mood or clause type, as opposed to directives, which are typically 
expressed by the imperative mood. Within the indicative, making a statement is 
associated characteristically with the declarative, and asking a question with the 
interrogative. More exactly, it is one part of these structures - consisting of the Subject 
and the Finite element - that in English carries the syntactic burden of the exchange. 
The rest of the clause remains unchanged. 

In a declarative clause, the Subject precedes the Finite. 






the bill 













the bill 








In the interrogative structure, the positions of Finite operator and Subject are 
reversed, the Predicator and the rest of the clause remaining the same. The Finite is that 
element which relates the content of the clause to the speech event. It does this by 
specifying a time reference, through tense, or by expressing an attitude of the speaker, 
through modality. Also associated with finiteness, although less explicitly in many cases 
in English, are person and number. The Finite element is realised in the examples above 
by the modal auxiliary will (see 3.1.1 and 23.3 for the interrogative). Clause types and 
the meanings they convey are treated in Chapter 5. 

1 .3.3 The clause as message: thematic structures 

Here, the speaker organises the informational content of the clause so as to establish 
whatever point of departure is desired for the message. This is called the Theme, which 


in English coincides with the initial element or elements of the clause. The rest of the 
clause is the Rheme: 


will give 


the bill 




The Theme may coincide with one of the participants, as in this example, or it 
may 'set the scene' by coinciding with an initial expression of time, place, etc. These 
possibilities are illustrated in 1.3.4. and treated more fully in Chapter 6. 

1 .3.4 Combining the three types of structure 

The three types of structure we have briefly introduced are examined more closely 
in Chapters 4, 5 and 6. Here, they are mapped simultaneously on to the example 
clause, in order to show the tripartate nature and analysis of English clauses from a func- 
tional point of view. Predicator, Indirect and Direct Objects, and Adjunct are included 
as syntactic functions, which correspond to the semantic roles. We examine the 
syntactic functions more closely in Chapter 2. 


will give 


the bill 










Finite + 







In a typical active declarative clause such as this, Agent, Subject and Theme coincide 
and are realised in one wording, in this case Janice. But in natural language use, a 
situation can be expressed in different ways, in which the order of clause elements can 
vary, since different elements of structure can be moved to initial position. Our present 
example admits at least the following possible variants: 

1 Chris will be given the bill (by Janice) tomorrow. 

2 The bill will be given to Chris tomorrow (by Janice). 

3 Tomorrow, Chris will be given the bill (by Janice). 

It can be seen that the three types of structural elements do not coincide (vertically) 
in the same way as they do in the typical active declarative clause. For example: 
Theme now coincides with Recipient in 1, with Affected in 2, and with Circumstance in 
3; Agent no longer coincides with Theme or with Subject in any of the variants. The 
configurations for 1 are illustrated below. 



will be given 

the bill 

by Janice 








Finite + Predicates 

Direct Object 





The motivation for this and the other variants is not to be sought in the clause in 
isolation, but in its relationship to that part of the discourse at which it is located. The 
speaker organises the content of the clause in order to achieve the best effect for their 
communicative purpose. This involves establishing the point of departure of the clausal 
message - that is, the Theme - in relation to what has gone before. This choice 
conditions to a large extent the way the clausal message will develop and how the 
speaker or writer will lead the hearer or reader to identify that constituent which is 
presented as New information, usually at the end of the clause. 

By choosing variant 1, for example, Chris becomes the point of departure, while 
tomorrow is still in final position, with the Agent, Janice, nearing final position. By using 
the passive, instead of the active voice, the Agent can be omitted altogether, leaving 
the Affected, the bill, nearer final position. Finally, if we bring the circumstantial element 
of time, tomorrow, to initial position as Theme, as in 3, this element will serve as a frame 
for the whole event. By means of such reorganisations of the clausal message, the 
content of the clause can be made to relate to the rest of the discourse and to the com- 
municative context in which it is produced. It is for this reason that the active-passive 
choice, which determines the constituent of the clause that will be Subject, is related to 
choice of Theme and the 'packaging' or distribution of information. 

The textual motivations outlined in the previous paragraph, and the syntactic 
strategies that serve to produce different kinds of clausal message, are discussed in 
Chapter 6. 

We will now look at the full range of grammatical units in a hierarchy where the clause 
is central. We will then look briefly at the unit above the clause, the 'complex sentence', 
and the units immediately below the clause, the 'groups'. 





In this module we shall outline the basic syntactic concepts on which our structural 
analysis is based. These include the structural units which can be arranged by rank, 
the classes into which these units can be divided, and the elements of which they are 
composed. We shall also consider the ways units of one rank are related to those above 
or below them. This is explained on pages 19 and 20, and in chapters 2 and 3. 


Before attempting to see how a stretch of language can be broken down into units, it is 
useful to be able to reinforce our intuitions as to where boundaries lie. This can be done 
by applying certain tests in order to identify whether a particular sequence of words is 
functioning as a constituent of a higher unit or not. 

For instance, the following sequence, which constitutes a grammatical clause or 
simple sentence, is ambiguous: 

Muriel saw the man in the service station 

Two interpretations are possible, according to how the units that make up the clause 
are grouped into constituents, expressed graphically as follows: 

1 1 1 Muriel | saw | the man in the service station 1 1 

2 || Muriel | saw | the man || in the service station || 

In version 1, the prepositional phrase in the service station forms part of the constituent 
whose head-word is man (the man in the service station) and tells us something about the 
man; whereas in version 2 the same prepositional phrase functions separately as a 
constituent of the clause and tells us where Muriel saw the man. 

Evidence for this analysis can be sought by such operations as (a) coordination, 
(b) w/2-questions, (c) clefting, (d) passivisation and (e) fronting. Tests (b) to (e) involve 
moving the stretch of language around and observing its syntactic behaviour. Testing 


by coordination involves adding a conjoin that realises the same function; only stretches 
of language that realise the same function can be conjoined: 

(a) It can be seen that different types of conjoin are required according to the function 
of in the service station: 

(i) Muriel saw the man in the service station and the woman in the shop. 
(ii) Muriel saw the man in the service station and in the shop. 

(b) The wA-question form and the appropriate response will be different for the two 

(i) Who did Muriel see? - The man in the service station. 
(ii) Where did Muriel see the man? - In the service station. 

(c) Clefting by means of it + that-clause highlights a clause constituent (see 30.2) and 
thus yields two different results: 

(i) It was the man in the service station that Muriel saw. 
(ii) It was in the service station that Muriel saw the man. 

W^-clefting (see 30.2) gives the same result: 

(i) The one Muriel saw was the man in the service station. 
(ii) Where Muriel saw the man was in the service station. 

The form the one (that . . . ) is used in this construction since English does not admit 
who in this context (*Who Muriel saw was the man in the service station). 

(d) Passivisation (see 4.2.3 and 30.3) likewise keeps together those units or bits of 
language that form a constituent. The passive counterpart of an active clause usually 
contains a form of be and a past participle: 

(i) The man in the service station was seen by Muriel, 
(ii) The man was seen by Muriel in the service station. 

(e) A constituent can sometimes be fronted, that is, brought to initial position: 

(i) The man in the service station Muriel saw. 
(ii) In the service station Muriel saw the man. 

It is not always the case that a sequence responds equally well to all five types of test. 
Certain types of unit may resist one or more of these operations: for instance, frequency 
adverbs such as often and usually, and modal adverbs like probably, resist clefting (*It's 
often /usually /probably that Muriel saw the man in the service station), resulting in a sentence 
that is ungrammatical. Unlike some languages, in English the finite verbal element of a 
clause normally resists fronting (*Saw Muriel the man in the service station). Nevertheless, 
if two or more of the operations can be carried out satisfactorily, we can be reasonably 
sure that the sequence in question is a constituent of a larger unit. 

We now turn to the description of units, their classes and the relationship holding 
between them. 



The moving-around of bits of language, as carried out in 2.2, suggests that language is 
not a series of words strung together like beads on a string. Language is patterned, that 
is, certain regularities can be distinguished throughout every linguistic manifestation in 
discourse. A unit will be defined as any sequence that constitutes a semantic whole and 
which has a recognised pattern that is repeated regularly in speech and writing. For 
instance, the previous sentence is a unit containing other units such as a recognised 
pattern and in speech and writing. Sequences such as defined as any and repeated regularly 
in, which also occur in the same sentence, do not constitute units since they have no 
semantic whole and no syntactic pattern. The following sequence, which comments on 
the effects of a nuclear accident, constitutes one syntactic unit which is composed of 
further units: 

The effects of the accident are very serious. 

In English, it is useful to recognise four structural units which can be arranged in a 
relationship of componence on what is called a rank-scale: 






the effects of the accident are very serious 



the effects of the accident are very serious 


a space 

the effects of the accident are very serious 



{EFFECT} + {PLURAL}, realised by the morphs effecf and -s 

For the initial stages of analysis it may be helpful to mark off the boundaries of 
each unit by a symbol, such as those adopted in the example. The symbol for 'clause 
boundary' is a double vertical line ||. that for 'group boundary' is a single vertical line|, 
and that for 'word boundary' is simply a space, as is conventionally used in the written 
language. The independent clause is the equivalent of the traditional 'simple sentence'. 
Combinations of clauses, the boundaries symbolised by ||| are illustrated in 2.4.1 and 
treated more fully in Chapter 7. 

The relationship between the units is, in principle, as follows. Looking downwards, 
each unit consists of one or more units of the rank below it. Thus, a clause consists of 
one or more groups, a group consists of one or more words and a word consists of one 
or more morphemes. For instance, Waiti consists of one clause, which consists of 
one group, which consists of one word, which consists of one morpheme. More exactly, 
we shall say that the elements of structure of each unit are realised by units of the rank 

Looking upwards, each unit fulfils a function in the unit above it. However, as we 
shall see in 3.6.3 and in later chapters, units may be 'embedded' within other units, such 


as the clause who live in the north within the nominal group people who live in the north. 
Similarly, the prepositional phrase of the accident is embedded in the nominal group the 
effects of the accident. 

We shall be concerned in this book mainly with two units: clause and group. The 
structure and constituents of these units will be described in later sections, together with 
their functions and meanings. 


At each rank of linguistic unit mentioned in 2.3, there are various classes of unit. 

2.4.1 Classes of clauses 

A. Finite and non-finite clauses 

At the rank of 'clause', a first distinction to be made is that between finite and non- 
finite clauses. As clauses have as their central element the verbal group, their status as 
finite or non-finite depends on the form of the verb chosen. Finite verbs, and therefore 
also finite clauses, are marked for either tense or modality, but not both. Their function 
is to relate the verb to the speech event. Tensed forms distinguish the present tense 
(lock, locks) from the past tense (locked) in regular verbs and many irregular verbs also, 
as in eat, ate; go, went. This distinction is not made on all irregular verbs, for example 
shut, which has the same form for the present and past tenses. Person and number are 
marked only on the third person singular of the present tense (locks, shuts) - except for 
the verb be, which has further forms (see 3.1.1). 

Tense is carried not only by lexical verbs but also by the finite operators. Modality 
is marked by the modal verbs, which also function as operators (see 3 . 1 . 1 ). If the speaker 
wishes to express tense or modality, together with person and number, a 'finite' form 
of the verb is chosen, therefore, such as is, eats, locked, went, will stay and the clause is 
then called a finite clause ( For example, in the following paragraph all the verbs 
- and therefore all the clauses (marked \ 2 etc.) - are finite: 

1 1 1 had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong hills. ' 1 1 JThe Equator runs across 
these highlands a hundred miles to the north,! I 2 and the farm lay at an altitude 
of over six thousand feet. 3 ! 1 1 In the daytime you felt that you had got high up, near 
to the sun, 4 || but the early mornings and evenings were limpid and restful, 5 ] | and 
the nights were cold. 6 ! 1 1 

(Karen Blixen, Out of Africa) 

If the verb-form does not signal either tense or modality, the verb and the clause are 
classified as non-finite (V-non-fin; non-fin. cl). The non-finite verb forms are: 


the infinitive (inf.) (be, eat, lock, go) sometimes called the 'bare' infinitive; 

the to-infinitive (to-inf); 

the participial -ing form (-ing) (being, eating, locking, going); and 

the past participial form, symbolised in this book as -en (been, eaten, locked, 


These forms are said to be non-tensed. Non-finite clauses are illustrated by the 
following examples: 

1 They want to hire a caravan. to-infinitive clause 

2 Tim helped her carry her bags upstairs. bare infinitive clause 

3 We found Ann sitting in the garden. -ing participial clause 

4 The invitations were sent written by hand, -en participial clause 

Most of these non-finite verb forms occur in the following passage from A. J. Cronin's 
The Citadel. (Note that the same form serves for both the finite and non-finite status of 
many English verbs; locked and shut, for instance, each function both as a tensed (past) 
form and as a non-finite -en participle.) 

Three men, cramped^ together on their bellies in a dead end, were doing their best 
to revive 2 another man who lay in a huddled attitude, his body slewed 3 sideways, 
one shoulder pointing 9 backwards, lost, 5 seemingly, in the mass of rock behind 

'non-finite, -en; 2 non-finite, to-infinitive; 3 non-finite, -en; "non-finite, -ing; 
5 non-finite, -en. 

B Independent and dependent clauses 

A further necessary distinction to be made is that between independent and 
dependent clauses. An independent clause ( is complete in itself, that is, it 
does not form part of a larger structure, whereas a dependent clause ( is typically 
related to an independent clause. This is illustrated in the following sentence: 

They locked up the house (, before they went on holiday ( 

All grammatically independent clauses are finite. Dependent clauses may be finite or 
non-finite. In the previous example, the finite dependent clause before they went on 
holiday can be replaced by a non-finite clause before going on holiday. The dependent 
status of non-finite clauses is signalled by the form itself. 

Only independent clauses have the variations in clause structure that make for the 
different clause types: declarative, interrogative, imperative and exclamative (see 
Module 23): 


Jack's flat is in Hammersmith. (declarative) 

Is his address 20 Finchley Road? (interrogative) 

Give me Jack's telephone number, (imperative) 

What a large apartment he has\ (exclamative) 

Dependent clauses, even when finite, do not have these possibilities. 

C. Finite dependent clauses 

Seven kinds of finite dependent clause are illustrated in this section, along with three 
important sub-types of the nominal clause. 

The subordinate status of a finite dependent clause is normally signalled by means 
of subordinating conjunctions ('subordinators') such as when, if, before, as soon as in 
circumstantial clauses, as in 1 below (see also 35.2), or by 'relativisers' such as which, 
that in relative clauses as in 2 (see 49.3): 

1 As soon as she got home, Ann switched on the television. 

2 Paul took one of the red apples that his wife had bought that morning. 

Nominal clauses fulfil the functions of Subject, Object and Complement in clause 
structure. In a sentence such as He saw that the bottles were empty, the clause [that the 
bottles were empty] is embedded as a constituent (in this case as Object) of the 
superordinate clause he saw x. The part without the embedded clause is sometimes 
called the matrix clause. 

The main types of nominal clause are the f/taf-clause 3, the wA-nominal relative 
clause 4 and the dependent vWi-interrogative clause 4 and 5. The dependent 
exclamative 6 is a further type of w/2-clause: 

3 He saw that the bottles were empty, (that-clause) 

4 What I don't understand is why you have come here, (nominal relative clause + 
dependent w/2-interrogative) 

5 I'll ask where the nearest Underground station is. (dependent w/2-interrogative) 

6 She said how comfortable it was. (dependent exclamative clause) 

Embedded clauses are discussed and illustrated in chapters 2 and 3. 

Comparative clauses occur following the comparative forms of adjectives and 
adverbs. The comparative clause, introduced by than, provides the basis of comparison: 

7 The results are much better than we expected. 

Supplementive units are not integrated into the main clause, as embedded units are, 
but add supplementary information. They are subordinate but not embedded. They are 
set off from the main clause by commas, or by a dash, and have their own intonation 
contour. Here is an example of a supplementive non-finite -en clause: 

Built of cypress, brick and glass, the house exhibits many of the significant con- 
tributions that Wright made to contemporary architecture. 


In spoken discourse, and in written texts that imitate spoken language, such as fictional 
dialogue, we can often come across supplementives that are freestanding, despite 
their subordinate form, as in the following italicised example (see also chapters 5, 7 
and 10): 

The large size doesn't seem to be available. Which is a pity. 

Not only clauses, but other units can have the status of 'supplementives' (see 49.2). 

A subsidiary type of clause is the verbless clause. This is a clause which lacks a verb 
and often a subject also. The omitted verb is typically a form of be and is recoverable 
from the situational or linguistic context, as in: 

Book your tickets well in advance, whenever possible. ( - whenever it is possible) 

(See also Chapter 5.) The following extract from Elaine Morgan's, The Descent of Woman 
illustrates this type very well: 

Man, apes and monkeys can all be observed to cry our when in pain, flush when 
enraged, yawn when tired, glare when defiant, grin when tickled, tremble when 
afraid, embrace when affectionate, bare their teeth when hostile, raise their eyebrows 
when surprised, and turn their heads away when offended. 

We shall also classify as verbless clauses many irregular constructions such as the 

Wft-questions without a finite verb: Why not sell your car and get a new one? 

Adjuncts with the force of a command, Hands off! Into the shelter, everybody! 
sometimes with a vocative: 

Ellipted interrogative and exclamative Sure? (Are you sure?) Fantastic! (That/It is 
clauses: fantastic) 

Proverbs of the type: Out of sight, out of mind. 

Finally, we shall call abbreviated clauses those such as can you? I won't, has she? which 
consist of the Subject + Finite operator alone, with the rest of the clause ellipted because 
it is known. These clauses typically occur as responses in conversational exchanges and 
as tags (see 22.4), but can also express such speech acts as reprimand (Must you?), given 
an appropriate social context. 


2.4.2 Classes of groups 

Groups are classified according to the class of the word operating as the main or 'head' 
element. Headed by a noun, an adjective, an adverb and a verb respectively, we can 
identify the following classes: 

Nominal Groups 



wonderful films by Fellini 

Verbal Groups 



will return 

Adjectival Groups 



quite good at languages 

Adverbial Groups 



very fluently indeed 

Units such as these centre round one main element, which prototypically cannot be 
omitted. Furthermore, the main element can replace the whole structure: films, return, 
good and fluently can have the same syntactic functions as the whole group of which 
each is head, or, in the case of return, as lexical verb. By contrast, the unit formed by a 
preposition and its complement, such as on the floor, is rather different. The preposition 
can't function alone as a unit. Both elements are obligatory. This unit will therefore be 
called the 'Prepositional Phrase' (PP). 

2.4.3 Classes of words 

Words are classified grammatically according to the traditional terminology, which 
includes noun, verb, adjective, adverb, preposition, pronoun, article and con- 
junction. These 'parts of speech' are divided into two main classes, the open and the 
closed. The open classes are those that freely admit new members into the vocabulary. 
They comprise noun, verb, adjective and adverb. The closed classes (preposition, 
pronoun and article) do not easily admit new members. Prepositions have gradually 
expanded their membership somewhat by admitting participles such as including, 
concerning, but the remaining classes are very resistant to the introduction of new items. 
This has been noticeable in recent years when attempts have been made to find gender- 
neutral pronouns. 

2.4.4 Classes of morphemes 

Words are made up of morphemes. We shall consider the morpheme to be an abstract 
category that has either a lexical or a grammatical meaning. We have already indicated 
in 2.3 that a word such as effects can be considered as formed from the lexical morpheme 
{EFFECT} + the {PLURAL} morpheme. These abstract categories are realised by 
morphs such as effect and -s or /ifekt/ and /s/, the actual segments of written and 
spoken language, respectively. 

Since the study of words and morphemes takes us out of syntax, and into morphology 
and phonology, the scope of this book does not allow for further treatment of these 



The term 'structure' refers to the relationships that exist between the small units that 
make up a larger unit. For example, the basic components of a table are a flat board 
and four long thin pieces of wood or metal, but these elements do not constitute a 
structure until they are related to each other as a horizontal top supported at the corners 
by four vertical legs. In this way, each 'element' is given its position and its 'function', 
which together we may call the 'grammar' of all those members of the general class of 
objects called 'table'. 

Everything in our lives has structure. A house may be built of bricks, but its structure 
consists of rooms having different formal, functional and distributional characteristics. 
Tables, chairs, cars, all objects are composed of functionally related 'formal items'; 
and the same applies to activities such as speeches, plays, concerts and football matches. 
It is natural that languages, which are the spoken and written representation of our 
experience of all these things, are also manifested in structured forms. Linguistic struc- 
tures are described in terms of the semantic functions of their various elements and the 
syntactic forms and relationships which express them. 

We have seen in 1.3.1 a brief preview of the main semantic elements of the clause, 
together with some of the possible configurations produced by the combinations of 
these elements. Groups, whose function it is to express the things, processes, qualities 
and circumstances of our experience, also have semantic elements and structures. These 
are different for each type of group and are treated in the relevant chapter on each of 
these classes of unit. Here we shall briefly present the syntactic elements of all ranks 
of unit. 

2.5.1 Syntactic elements of clauses 

Clauses have the greatest number of syntactic elements or functions of all classes 
of unit. The criteria for their identification, the syntactic features and the realisations of 
each are discussed in Chapter 2. Here we simply list and exemplify the clause elements 
within common clause structures. The type of structure used in order to express a 
'situation' or 'state of affairs' depends to a great extent on the verb chosen. Verb 
complementation types are treated in Chapter 3. 

Subject (S) 
Predicator (P) 
Direct Object (Od) 
Indirect Object (Oi) 
Prepositional Object (Op) 
Subject Complement (Cs) 
Object Complement (Co) 
Locative/Goal Complement (C loc ) 
Circumstantial Adjunct (A) 
Stance Adjunct (A) 

Connective Adjunct (A) 

Jupiter is the largest planet. SPCs 

The election campaign has ended. SP 

Ted has bought a new motorbike. SPOd 

They sent their friends postcards. SPOiOd 

You must allow for price increases. SPOp 

He is powerless to make any changes. SPCs 

We consider the situation alarming. SPOdCo 

We flew to Moscow. SPC, 


The news reached us on Tuesday. SPOdA 
Unfortunately, we could not reach 

York in time. ASPOdA 

However, other friends were present. ASPCs 


It will be seen that for interrogative and negative clauses we use an additional function, 
the Finite (see 3.1 and 23.3). 

2.5.2 Syntactic elements of groups 

Nominal groups, adjectival groups and adverbial groups are composed of three primary 
elements or functions: a head (h) preceded by a pre-modifier (m) and followed by a 
post-modifier (m). This last element is sometimes called a 'qualifier'. In the chapters 
devoted to these groups we also distinguish complement (c) as a special type of post- 
head element. Complements of nouns and adjectives are introduced by a preposition 
or by a rtaf-clause which is controlled by the head-word of the group. For example, 
the adjective good controls a complement introduced by at. good at chess. The noun 
belief controls a that-c\ause: the belief that he is always right. In the case of nominal 
groups, we also distinguish between 'modifiers', which describe or classify the head, 
and 'determiners' (d), which specify it in terms of definiteness, quantity, possessiveness, 
etc. Thus, we give the determiner and the pre- and post-modifiers equal syntactic status 
as primary elements of nominal groups (see 45.2). The following are examples of these 
group structures: 

NG: dmhm: those | beautiful | paintings | by Goya 
AdjG: mhc: extremely | difficult | to translate 
AdvG: mhm: very | carefully | indeed 

In Verbal Groups, the lexical verb is regarded as the main element (v), which either 
functions alone, whether in finite or non-finite form, as in the example Walking along 
the street, I met a friend of mine, or is preceded by auxiliaries (x), as in will go or has been 
reading. The first auxiliary (or the auxiliary, if there is only one) is called the 'finite 
operator' (o). It is the element that contributes information about tense, modality, 
number and person, and so helps to make the VG finite and fully 'operative'. It is also 
the element that operates in the syntactic structure to make the clause interrogative 
and/ or negative (see 3.1), and to make ellipted responses: 

Have you been driving for many years? - Yes, I have. 

Do you enjoy driving? - Yes, I do. 

In the more complex verbal groups, each element is telescoped into the following one 
(see 38.7): 

v: plays 

ov: has | played [have + -en] 

oxv: will | be | playing [will + [be + -ing]] 

oxxv: must I have I been I played [must + [have + -en] [be + -en]] 

The lexical verb is sometimes followed by an adverbial particle (symbolised by 'p') as 
in ring up, break out, take over. Many such combinations form integrated semantic units 


which are idiomatic. Although the particle frequently forms an integral part of the 
meaning of the lexical verb, and in fact can often be replaced by a simple verb form (ring 
up = telephone; break out — escape, erupt), transitive combinations can be discontinuous 
as in I'll ring you up, They've taken it over. 

However, most particles are not otherwise moveable (see the constituency tests in 
2.2); we can't say *Up I'll ring you or *Out broke an epidemic. The only exception is in 
'free combinations'where the particle has a directional meaning, and in such cases we 
classify them as directional complements with special uses: Down came the rain and up 
went the umbrellas. However, grammars differ in this respect. The syntax of phrasal verbs 
and other multi-word combinations is discussed in 6.4 and the semantics (in terms of 
Source, Path and Goal) in 40.2. 

In Prepositional Phrases (PP) there are two obligatory elements: the preposi- 
tional head (h) and the complement (c). There is also an optional modifier (m), which 
is typically realised by an adverb of degree (e.g. right, quite). The structure of PPs is 
illustrated as follows: 

mhc: right | across | the road 
quite | out of | practice 

Prepositional phrases appear as realisations of many functions throughout this book. 
The structure and grammatical functions of the prepositional phrase are treated in 
Chapter 12, together with prepositional meanings, which are described in terms of 
locative, metaphorical and abstract uses. 

2.5.3 Componence, realisation and function 

Any structure can be considered to be composed of elements which form a configuration 
of 'functions', whether semantic functions such as Agent-Process-Affected or syntactic 
functions such as the clause configuration Subject-Predicator-Direct Object or the 
modifier-head-modifier structure of the nominal group. 

Each of these functions is in turn realised by a unit which is itself, at least potentially, 
a configuration of functions, and these in turn are realised by others until the final 
stage is reached and abstract categories such as subject, head, modifier, etc., are finally 
realised by the segments of the spoken or written language. The 'structural tree' on page 
20 diagrams this model of analysis at the three unit ranks of clause, group and word, 
to illustrate the clause The bus strike will affect many people tomorrow: 

An important property of language is the fact that there is no one-to-one corre- 
spondence between the class of unit and its function. While it is true that certain classes 
of unit typically realise certain functions, Nominal Groups at Subject and Object functions, 
for instance, it is nevertheless also true that many classes of unit can fulfil many different 
functions, and different functions are realised by many different classes of unit. For 
instance, the NG next time can fulfil the following clause functions, among others: 

Subject: Next time will be better. 

Adjunct: I'll know better next time. 

Direct Object: We'll enjoy next time. 


d m h o v 

det noun noun aux v 


A Components 

AdvG Realisations 

h Components 

adv Realisations 


the bus strike will affect many people tomorrow Realisation 

by lexical 

The nearest to a one-to-one relationship in the grammar is that between the process 
and the verbal group that realises it. 

This many-to-many relationship is fundamental for understanding the relationship 
of the grammar of English to discourse. By this it is not implied that discourse (or even 
a text) is a kind of super-sentence, a grammatical unit that is simply 'larger' than a 
sentence and with the same kind of relationship holding between its parts as that which 
holds between grammatical units. A piece of discourse is quite different in kind from a 
grammatical unit. Rather than grammatical, it is a pragmatic-semantic unit of whatever 
length, spoken or written, and which forms a unified whole, with respect both to its 
internal properties and to the social context in which it is produced. 

To take a minimal instance, a pragmatic act such as 'leavetaking' may be realised by 
a modalised declarative clause (I'll be seeing you) or by the formulaic expression Goodbye, 
among others. Typically, a discourse is made up of various types of pragmatic acts, 
which in turn are realised semantically and syntactically. In this book, although we start 
from the grammar rather than from the text, the relationship between the two is of 
primary interest. 




Negating and questioning are basic human needs, which are encoded grammatically by 
negation and by the interrogative, respectively. English is unlike many other languages 
in using a finite operator to form negative and interrogative clause structures. 

The verb's corresponding negative forms normally have n't added to the positive 
forms. The following are irregular: can 't (from cannot), shan 't (from shall not), won 't (from 
will not). May not is not usually abbreviated to mayn't. When n't follows a consonant 

- as in didn't, wouldn't -it is pronounced as a separate syllable. The inflectional n't forms 
are used in spoken English and in informal written styles that imitate speech, such 
as fictional dialogue. The full form not is used in formal written styles and for emphasis 

- as in The play was not a success, rather than The play wasn 't a success. 

3.1.1 The finite operator 

The operator is a verb, of one of the following types: primary, modal or do, as explained 

primary: positive: am, is, are, was, were, have, has, had 

negative: am not (aren't in negative-interrogative), isn't, aren't, 
wasn't, weren't, haven't, hasn't, hadn't 

modal: positive: can, could, will, would, shall, should, may, might, ought 

negative: can't, couldn't, won't, wouldn't, shan't, shouldn't, may not, 
mightn't, oughtn't 

the 'do' operator: positive: does, do, did negative; doesn't, don't, didn't 

We also mention here the lexical-auxiliaries based on the primary verbs be (be about 
to, be sure to, be going to, etc.) and have (have to, have got to), which are discussed in 37.3. 
The primary verb functions as a normal operator in these combinations. 

Less commonly in use are the semi-modals dare and need, which as modals are 
used in negative and interrogative clauses, and admit the abbreviated forms daren 't and 
needn't, respectively. (Dare you go? I daren't go. How dare you speak to me like that? 
Need I go? You needn't go). 


Dare can be used with will, should and would, a possibility that is not open to modals 
in general: Nobody will dare vote against the proposal; I wouldn 't dare take a space-trip 
even if I were offered one. 

Dare and need also behave like full lexical verbs requiring the do-operator: / didn 't 
dare go. I didn 't need to go. Didn 't you dare go? Didn 't you needtogo? Didn 't dare is more 
common now than dared not (He dared not say a word, He didn't dare say a word). 


In clauses, negation is usually made with the particle not, by negating the finite operator 
(is not, cannot /isn % can 't, etc.), or a non-finite verb in a dependent clause (not wishing to 
disturb them). *Amn 't is not used in Standard English for the first person singular; instead 
I'm not (declarative) and Aren 't I (interrogative) are used. If no other auxiliary is present, 
a form of do (do, does, did) is brought in as operator. Compare the following positive and 
negative declarative clauses: 

That man is the Secretary. That man is not /isn 't the Secretary. 

He took the car. He didn 't take the car. 

Ed always does the dishes. Ed doesn't always do the dishes. 

The last example here illustrates the use of does both as a lexical verb and as operator. 

Don't is the regular negative form used in second person imperatives: Don't be late\ 

Some operators admit an alternative type of abbreviation with the subject in negative 
clauses. This occurs usually only with a pronoun. Both types are used in spoken English: 

They aren't ready. They're not ready. 

She isn't coming with us. She's not coming with us. 

He hasn't finished. He's not finished. 

We haven't got enough. We've not got enough. 

3.2.1 Interrogative clauses 

These invert the operator with the subject of the clause: 

Positive-interrogative Negative-interrogative 

Is that man the Secretary? Isn't that man the Secretary? 

Did he take the car? Didn't he take the car? 

Does Ed always do the dishes? Doesn't Ed always do the dishes? 

There are two types of interrogative clause. One is the yes/no type, illustrated here, 
which simply asks for an answer in terms of yes or no. The other is the w/t-type, which 
asks for the information represented by the wA-word what! who"? where? and so on. The 


inversion of subject-operator is the same as for the yes/no type, except when who 
functions as subject: 

Who came to see you? When can you come to see us? 
What does Ed do? When did you see him last? 


Another way of negating a clause is by using a non-verbal 'nuclear' negative word 
such as nobody, nothing, no or never. When we need a negative element as subject, a 
nuclear form is necessary: Nobody came after all, Nothing was said, No money was found 
(see below, and also Chapter 10). Nuclear negative words are also common in existential 
clauses: There's nothing to worry about. 

In many cases a similar idea can be expressed by using either no-negation or not- 
negation + any: 

Have you any money? I haven 't any money. 

I have no money. 

Do you know anyone called Stern? I don't know anyone called Stern. 

I know no-one called Stern. 

In questions, either alternative is possible even when the negative item is subject, as 
opposed to the single possible structure in negative declarative clauses. Compare: 

Declarative negative: Nobody has called this afternoon. 
Interrogative negative: Has nobody called this afternoon? 

Hasn 't anybody called this afternoon? 

When both are possible, the no-form tends to be more emphatic or more suited to writing 
or formal spoken English. A very emphatic negative meaning is conveyed in spoken 
English also by, for example, She's no friend of mine. He's no actor. 


Unlike many languages, Standard English does not favour cumulative negation, that is 
a 'not' negative together with one or more nuclear negatives in one clause, such as 
*We're not going nowhere, although this is a feature of some dialects. Instead the first 
negative item is followed throughout the rest of the clause by one or more non-assertive 
items such as any, as in: 

We're not going anywhere with any of our friends. 
I didn't say anything about it to anyone. 


It is important to remember that the 'any' words in English (any, anyone, anybody, 
anything, anywhere) are not in themselves negative. In order to be used in a negative 
clause they must be preceded by not or a negative word; they must be within the 'scope 
of negation' (see 3.5). So instead of Nobody came, it is not acceptable to say * Anybody 
came or * Anybody didn't come. These are ungrammatical and meaningless, hence the 
deliberate oddity of e.e. cummings' poem 'Anyone lived in a little how town'. 

The any words (together with ever and yet, among others) are what we call 'non- 
assertive' items, as opposed to some and its compounds, which are 'assertive'. Assertive 
forms have factual meanings and typically occur in positive declarative clauses. 
Non-assertive words such as any are associated with non-factual meanings in the 
sense of non-fulfilment or potentiality, which is a feature of negative, interrogative, 
conditional and comparative clauses, and semi-negative words such as without and 
hardly, among others. It is, in fact, the general non-factual meaning, rather than any 
particular structure which provides the context for non-assertive items to be used: 

We have some very good coffee, (declarative, factual) 

This coffee is better than any I have ever tasted, (comparative, non-factual) 

If you want any more coffee, you must make it yourself, (conditional, non-factual) 

Did you say anything? (interrogative, non-factual) 

Did« 't you go anywhere interesting? (interrogative-negative, non-factual) 

Without any delay. 

Hardly anyone knew his name. 

Stressed any is used in positive declarative clauses, and has a non-factual meaning 
(= it doesn't matter which/who); see also 47.1. 

Choose any of the questions in section one. 
Anybody with a bit of sense would have refused to go. 
Any house is better than no house. 

Here is a summary of assertive and non-assertive items: 

Assertive Non-assertive 


















any more/any longer 

a lot 


Biased yes /no questions with some and any words are explained in 26.4. 



By the scope of negation we mean the semantic influence that a negative word has on 
the rest of the clause that follows it. Typically, all that follows the negative form to the 
end of the clause will be non-assertive and within the scope of negation. Thus, in Some 
people don 't have any sense of humour, some is outside the scope of negation, whereas any 
is inside it. 

As the non-assertive forms are not in themselves negative, they cannot initiate the 
scope of negation by standing in initial position in the place of a nuclear negative form. 
Assertive forms such as some and its compounds can occur after a negative word, but 
they must necessarily stand outside the scope of negation. Compare the difference in 
meaning between the two following clauses: 

1 He didn't reply to any of my letters. 

2 He didn't reply to some of my letters. 

The non-assertive form any in clause 1 expresses the scope of negation as extending 
to the end of the clause. None of the letters received a reply. Example 2, on the other hand, 
implies that some letters received a reply, while others didn't. Some must be interpreted 
as outside the scope of negation. 

The scope of negation is closely related to the function of Adjuncts in the clause. 
Compare the difference in meaning between examples 3 and 4 below, in which the 
manner Adjunct clearly is within the scope of negation in 3, whereas the attitudinal 
sentence Adjunct clearly in 4 is outside it: 

3 She didn't explain the problem clearly. 

4 She clearly didn't explain the problem. 

The scope of negation can also explain the occasional occurrence of two negative words 
in the same clause as in You can't NOT go. Here each negative item has its own scope. 


Our discussion so far has centred on clausal negation. Groups, words and non-finite 
clauses can be negated by not, without the entire finite clause being negated: 

She was admitted into hospital not long ago. 

Not realising the danger, she walked in the dark towards the edge of the cliff. 

Try not to get too tired playing tennis. 

She would prefer not to go on a Mediterranean cruise for a holiday. 

Negative declaratives typically express a negative statement, but they can also be used 
to ask tactful questions, as in the following extract from a detective story. The person 
questioned replies mostly with straight negative statements, adding in 2 the expression 
of polite regret I'm afraid, but in 8 she avoids total commitment: 


'You don't know the actual name of the firm or association that employed her? y 

'No, / don't, 2 I'm afraid.' 

'Did she ever mention relatives?' 

'No. I gather she was a widow and had lost her husband many years ago. A bit of 

an invalid he'd been, but she never talked much about him.' 3 

'She didn't mention where she came from 1 - what part of the country?' 

7 don't think she was a Londoner. 5 Came from somewhere up north, I should say.' 

'You didn't feel there was anything - well, mysterious about her? 6 

Lejeune felt a doubt as he spoke. If she was a suggestible woman - but Mrs. Coppins 

did not take advantage of the opportunity offered to her. 7 

'Well / can't really soy 8 that I did. Certainly not from anything she ever said. 9 The 

only thing that perhaps might have made me wonder was her suitcase. Good quality 

it was, but not new.' 

(Agatha Christie, The Pale Horse) 

'question; 2 negative statement; 'negative statement; "question; transferred 
negation; 6 question; 7 negative statement; 8 hedge; 'negative statement. 

Transferred negation consists in displacing the negative element from its logical place 
in the reported clause to negate the verb in the main clause. So in 5, instead of / think 
she wasn 't a Londoner, we have / don 't think she was a Londoner. 


Each of the linguistic units outlined in section 2 has been illustrated by single 
occurrences of that unit, for instance, one Nominal Group functioning at Subject or 
Direct Object, one modifier of an adjective or an adverb. Quite frequently our everyday 
communication requires no more. But units can be expanded to enable the speaker or 
writer to add further information which is, nevertheless, contained within the chosen 
structure at any point in the discourse. Here we simply exemplify coordination, 
subordination and embedding of various classes of elements, with the reminder that 
most elements of structure can be realised more than once, recursively. 

3.7.1 Coordination 

The following are examples of coordination of various classes of elements: 

morphemes in a word: pro- and and- abortionists 

heads of nominal groups: books, papers and magazines 
modifier in a NG: a beautiful and astonishing sight 

modifier in an AdjG: He says he is really and truly sorry for what happened. 

adjuncts in a clause: You can put in the application now or in a month's time 

or else next year. 


independent clauses: She got dressed quickly, had breakfast and went out to work 

dependent clauses: I will take a holiday when the course is over and if I pass 

the exam and also provided I can afford it. 

The following short extract illustrates coordinated units: 

Over the next decade, automation and the mechanisation of production 1 will improve 
and transform 2 farming, industrial plants and service industries 3 and also make our 
leisure time more productive, creative and interesting. 4 

'coordinated groups (NG + NG); Coordinated main verbs); Coordinated groups 
(NG + NG + NG); Coordinated adjectives (adj. + adj. + adj.). 

If the various conjoined clauses share the same subject or the same operator, these 
elements are regularly ellipted because they are recoverable (see 29.3), and are implicit 
in subsequent conjoined clauses. This occurs in the above example where the sequence 
automation and the mechanisation of production is ellipted, as is will, before the predicator 

Ellipsis similarly occurs in group structures, as in the above example, where in one 
interpretation of 4 , the modifier more is ellipted before creative and interesting. 

3.7.2 Subordination 

Similarly, the following are examples of subordination of various classes of elements: 

modifier in a NG: A very lovable, (if rather dirty), small boy. 

Cs in a clause: He is quite brilliant (though totally unreliable). 

adjuncts in a clause: We arrived (late (though not too late)) for the wedding. 
dependent clauses: I'll let you borrow the CDs (as soon as I've finished) [provided 
you bring them back [when I need them]]. 

In this complex sentence, the fourth clause when I need them is dependent on the third 
clause provided you bring them back; these together form a block which is dependent on 
the block formed by the first (independent) clause I'll let you borrow the CDs and its 
dependent clause as soon as I've finished. 

'Sentence' is the term traditionally used to denote the highest grammatical unit on a 
scale of rank. While not rejecting this term, we shall prefer, however, to use the term 
'clause' to refer to one independent unit. This applies also to a superordinate clause 
with embedded clauses in one or more functions, as illustrated in the next section. We 
keep the traditional term 'compound sentence' for units of two or more coordinated 
clauses, while the equally traditional term 'complex sentence' applies to units containing 
dependent clauses or dependent and conjoined clauses, as we have seen in some of the 
examples above. We shall say that in a complex sentence any number of clauses can 


be involved. These questions are further illustrated in Chapter 7 under the heading 
'Clause combining'. 

3.7.3 Embedding 

A third way of expanding the content and the structure of a linguistic unit is by 
embedding, a kind of subordination by which a clause functions as a constituent of 
another clause or of a group. This is a pervasive phenomenon in both spoken and written 
English and is found in elements such as the following, where the embedded clause is 
enclosed in square brackets: 

clause at S: [That he left so abruptly] doesn't surprise me. 

clause at Od: I don't know [why he left so abruptly]. 

clause at c in a PP: I'm pleased about [Jane winning a prize]. 

clause at m in NG Thanks for the card [you sent me]. 

clause at A: [After they had signed the contract] they went off to celebrate. 

group in group [[[Tom's] sister's] husband's] mother 

the box [on top of the cupboard [in my bedroom]] 

Basic concepts 

Module 1 

1 tFor each of the following clauses say whether a participant or a circumstance has been 
chosen as Theme (the first constituent in the clause): 

(1) Main Street is usually crowded on late shopping nights. 

(2) The girls armed with hockey-sticks chased the burglar. 

(3) Quite by accident I came across a very rare postage-stamp. 

(4) Away in the distance you can see Mount Kilimanjaro. 

(5) What I am going to tell you must not be repeated. 

2 tin each of the following clauses say whether the Subject, the Direct Object or the Adjunct 
has been chosen as Theme: 

(1) About fifty or sixty thousand years ago, there lived on earth a creature similar to 

(2) Skulls and bones of this extinct species of man were found at Neanderthal. 

(3) Where the first true men originated we do not know. 

(4) These newcomers eventually drove the Neanderthalers out of existence. 

(5) In Asia or Africa there may be still undiscovered deposits of earlier and richer 
human remains. 


Module 2 

3 tLook at the clauses below and apply the tests outlined in Module 2.2 to answer the 
questions following them: 

(1) The little boy in the red jersey is making a sand castle on the beach. 

(a) Is the little boy a constituent of the clause? 

(b) Is on the beach a constituent? 

(c) Is in the red jersey a constituent? 

(d) Is castle a constituent? 

(2) Tom happened to take the road to the factory by mistake. 

(a) Is the road a constituent? 

(b) Is to the factory a constituent? 

(c) Is by mistake a constituent? 

(d) Is happened a constituent? 

4 tldentify each of the uncontextualised clauses listed below as (a) independent; (b) 
dependent finite; (c) dependent non-finite; (d) abbreviated; (e) verbless. Punctuation and 
capitals have been omitted. 

(1 ) the complacency of the present government amazes me 

(2) although presumed dead 

(3) not being a tele-viewer myself 

(4) as I am the principal at a large boarding-school for girls 

(5) her future husband she met on a course for playleaders 

(6) I certainly will 

(7) while on vacation in Bali 

(8) because he is over-qualified for this job 

(9) just when he was starting to get himself organised 
(10) we'll probably get only a fraction of the factory's worth 

5 TSay to which class of group each of the following belongs: 

(1 ) the anti-terrorist laws 

(2) not quite hot enough 

(3) within three quarters of an hour 

(4) pretty soon 

(5) aren't playing 

(6) wide awake 

(7) his departure from Moscow 

(8) in spite of the bad weather 


Module 3 

6 tRead the text below from Time, and then answer the questions which follow: 

'DOES SHE 1 or doesn't she?' 2 The fashionable answer nowadays is always a 
louder and louder yes. 3 From Manhattan to Los Angeles a sunburst of bold, 
exotic, and decidedly unnatural colors, is streaking, squiggling and dotting 
across the hairstyles of the nation's trendy younger set, 4 and even making 
inroads among more mature professionals. 5 The startling palette of reds and 
blues, golds and silvers, greens and purples comes from inexpensive temporary 
hair-coloring products 6 that are easily applied at home 7 and almost as easily 
showered away. 8 Confrontational coloration, once a shocking British and 
American punk emblem, 9 is now celebrated as the sleek plumage of the up-and- 
coming yuppie generation. 10 

(1 ) Say which of the numbered clauses are (a) finite independent; (b) finite embedded; 
(c) abbreviated; (d) verbless. 

(2) Which of the numbered clauses are in a coordinating relationship? 

(3) Which of these clauses have ellipted elements? 

(4) Identify as many recursive elements as you can in the text. Do you consider the 
choice of recursive elements to have any special importance in this article? 

7 tMake the following sentences (a) negative and (b) interrogative-negative: 

(1 ) It will be difficult to find a nice present for Henry. 

(2) Sheila has something to tell you. 

(3) Someone has left a bag on a seat in the park. 

(4) He knows someone who lives in Glasgow. 

(5) It is worth going to see some of those pictures. 

8 tFill in the blanks with an appropriate non-assertive item. Say why such an item is needed 
in this context: 

(1 ) That's a pretty kitten you have there. Have you got .... more like it? 

(2) She hardly .... complains about .... he does. 

(3) I honestly don't think I could recommend .... within ten miles of the coast. 

(4) I don't remember seeing .... talking to Milly. 


9 t Account for the acceptability of the forms without an asterisk and the unacceptability of 
the forms marked by an asterisk (*) in each of the following sets: 

(1) (a) He has never spoken to anyone here. 

(b) He hasn't ever spoken to anyone here. 

(c) *He has ever spoken to anyone here. 

(2) (a) Nobody was able to work out the puzzle. 

(b) There wasn't anybody able to work out the puzzle. 

(c) 'Anybody was able to work out the puzzle. 



Introduction to clause structure 

Module 4: Syntactic elements and structures of the clause 34 

4.1 Subject, Predicator, Object, Complement, Adjunct 35 

4.1.1 Subject and Predicator 35 

4.1.2 Object and Complement 35 

4.1.3 The Adjunct 36 

4.2 Criteria for the classification of clause elements 37 

4.2.1 Determination by the verb 37 

4.2.2 Position 38 

4.2.3 Ability to become the subject 38 

4.2.4 Realisations of these functions 39 

4.3 Basic syntactic structures of the clause 39 

4.4 Realisations of the elements 40 

Module 5: Subject and Predicator 42 

5.1 The Subject(s) 42 

5.1 .1 Semantic, cognitive and syntactic features 42 

5.1.2 Realisations of the Subject 44 

5.2 The Predicator 48 

Module 6: Direct, Indirect and Prepositional Objects 50 

6.1 The Direct Object 50 

6.1.1 Syntactic and semantic features 50 

6.1.2 Realisations of the Direct Object 52 

6.2 The Indirect Object 55 

6.2.1 Syntactic and semantic features 55 

6.2.2 Realisations of the Indirect Object 56 

6.3 Prepositional verbs and the Prepositional Object 56 

6.3.1 Types of verb + preposition combinations 57 

6.3.2 Syntactic behaviour of prepositional verbs 58 

6.3.3 Stranding the preposition 59 

6.3.4 The prepositional passive 59 

6.3.5 Realisations of the Prepositional Object 59 

6.4 Phrasal verbs 60 

6.4.1 Syntactic features 60 

6.4.2 Differences between phrasal verbs and prepositional verbs 61 

6.4.3 Phrasal-prepositional verbs 62 

Module 7: Subject and Object Complements 64 

7.1 The Complement of the Subject 64 

7.1 .1 Syntactic and semantic features 64 

7.1.2 Realisations of the Subject Complement 66 

7.2 The Complement of the Object 67 

7.2.1 Syntactic and semantic features 67 

7.2.2 Realisations of the Object Complement 68 

Module 8: Adjuncts 69 

8.1 Syntactic and semantic features 69 

8.2 Main classes of Adjuncts 70 

8.2.1 Circumstantial Adjuncts 70 

8.2.2 Realisations of the Circumstantial Adjunct: summary 71 

8.2.3 Circumstantials as central clause elements 71 

8.2.4 Circumstantials and their ordering in discourse 72 

8.2.5 Stance Adjuncts 73 

8.2.6 Realisations of the Stance Adjunct: summary 74 

8.2.7 Connective Adjuncts 74 

8.2.8 Realisations of the Connective Adjunct: summary 75 

Further reading 76 

Exercises 76 




1 The independent clause (or simple sentence) has two basic constituents: subject 
and predicate. The Subject (S) encodes the primary participant in the clause. 

2 The predicate may consist simply of the Predicator (P), realised by a verb, or 
of a Predicator followed by one or more central constituents. These central 
elements, the Object (O) and the Complement (C) are, together with the Subject 
and the Predicator, the major functional categories of the clause. 

3 More specifically, we distinguish two main types of Object: Direct (Od) and 
Indirect (Oi ) and two main types of Complement (Subject Complement (Cs) 
and Object Complement (Co). A subsidiary type of Object is the Prepositional 
Object (Op). A further type of Complement is the circumstantial Complement, 
the most frequent being the Locative/Goal type (C bc ). 

4 In addition, the clause may contain a number of Adjuncts (A). These are usually 
syntactically able to be omitted. Those of the largest class, the circumstantial 
Adjuncts, are the most integrated in the clause. Somewhat separated from clause 
structure by a pause or a comma, stance Adjuncts express a speaker's or writer's 
attitude, while connective Adjuncts link clauses or parts of clauses, and 

5 Objects and Complements are determined by verb type and are limited in 
number in any one clause. Adjuncts are not limited in number. 

6 On the simplest level, the central functional categories of the independent clause 
are: S, P, O and C, with A usually optional. 



4.1.1 Subject and Predicator 

Traditionally, the single independent clause (or simple sentence) is divided into two 
main parts, subject and predicate. Semantically and communicatively, the Subject 
encodes the main participant (the plane/ Tom) in the situation represented by the clause 
and has the highest claim to the status of topic. The predicate can consist entirely 
of the Predicator, realised by a verbal group, as in 1 below, or the Predicator together 
with one or more other elements, as in 2: 



1 The plane 

2 Tom 


suddenly after the concert 

It is the predicator that determines the number and type of these other elements. 
Syntactically, the Subject (S) and the Predicator (P) are the two main functional 
categories. For the purpose of analysing and creating discourse it is helpful to see how 
the predicate is made up, since this tends to be the most informative part of the clause. 
A first distinction can be made between elements that are essential and elements that 
are usually optional. This can be seen by comparing 1 and 2. 

The two clause elements in 1, the Subject (the plane) and the Predicator realised by 
the verb landed are essential constituents. In 2 on the other hand, the predicate contains, 
as well as the predicator (disappeared), two elements, suddenly and after the concert, 
which are not essential for the completion of the clause. Although they are to a certain 
extent integrated in the clause, they can be omitted without affecting the acceptability 
of the clause. Such elements will be called Adjuncts (A). 

4.1.2 Object and Complement 

In other cases the predicate consists of the Predicator followed by one or more central 
constituents that complete the meaning. The two main functional categories which 
occur in post-verbal position are the Object (O) as in 3 and the Complement (C) as 
in 4: 




3 The students 



4 Jo 


a student 





Without these, each of the above clauses would be incomplete both semantically 
and syntactically: [*The students carried] and [*Jo is], respectively. There are two main 
types of Object, the Direct Object (Od) as in 5, and the Indirect Object (Oi) as in 6, 
the indirect object preceding the direct object. 





5 All the men 


dark suits 

6 Tom 



an email 

Semantically, the objects encode the key participants in the event other than 
the subject: dark suits, an email (Od) and me (Oi) in these examples. Note that partici- 
pants include not only human referents, but inanimate things and abstractions (see 
Chapter 4). 

Complements encode constituents that, semantically, are not participants but are 
nevertheless normally required both syntactically and semantically. 

There are two main types of Complement, the Complement of the Subject (Cs) 
(Subject Complement) as in 7a and 8a, and the Complement of the Object (Object 
Complement) (Co), as in 7b and 8b: 








7a That map 



7b We 


that map 


8a Ken Brown 



8b They 


Ken Brown 


The Subject Complement and Object Complement do not encode a different kind of 

participant. Rather, they characterise or identify the Subject or the Object, respectively. 

The basic clause structures formed by configurations of these functions are as follows: 

S-P S-P-0 S-P-O-0 S-P-C S-P-Od-Co S-P-O-C 

4.1.3 The Adjunct 

We will recognise three main classes of Adjunct: 

Circumstantial Adjuncts, which provide the setting for the situation expressed 
in the clause, as regards place, time and manner, among others: The new liner 
'Queen Elizabeth II' sails tomorrow from Southampton. 

Stance Adjuncts, which express the speaker's attitude to or evaluation of the 
content of the clause: Obviously, he'll rely on you even more now. 
Connective Adjuncts, which link two clauses, or parts of clauses, signalling the 
semantic relation holding between them: The hotel was rather noisy. On the other 
hand, it wasn't expensive (contrast). 



The criteria adopted for the classification of clause functions are four: determination by 
the verb, position, ability to become the subject and realisations of these functions. 

4.2.1 Determination by the verb 

The number and type of objects and complements that can occur in a clause are 
determined by the verb according to its potential - described in chapters 3 and 5 as its 
'valency'. We say that a certain verb predicts an object or a complement. Eat, for 
example, predicts an object that expresses the thing eaten. One sense of carry predicts 
an object that refers to the thing carried (They carried backpacks). Disappear, however, 
does not predict or admit an object (*He disapppeared the money). Determination is 
related to verb class. 

Transitive verbs usually require one or more objects. They occur in type SPO {carry), 
type S-P-Oi-Od (send), and type S-P-O-C (find) in one of its uses. 

Intransitive verbs such as disappear occur in type S-P. They do not admit an object, 
but certain intransitive verbs predict a complement of space or time, as will be explained 

More exactly, we should talk about transitive or intransitive uses of certain verbs, 
as a great many verbs can be used in English both transitively and intransitively (see 
Chapter 3). Land is transitive in The pilot landed the plane safely, but intransitive in The 
plane landed. Carry is transitive in They carried backpacks, but it has an intransitive use 
in His voice carries well (= 'projects'). 

A locative element is required by a few transitive verbs such as put and place (Put 
the handkerchiefs in the drawer, Place the dish in the microwave). Without this locative 
element, the clause is syntactically and semantically incomplete (*Put the dish). It 
therefore has the status of a central clause element. A locative element is also predicted 
by many intransitive verbs of motion such as come, go, fly, drive, which can predict such 
meanings as Direction (flying south) and Goal, which marks an end-point (go to Rome). 
Both types will be represented here as Locative/Goal Complements subsumed under 
the abbreviation (C loc ). However, it is also possible to use these verbs without a locative, 
as in for example Are you coming? Don't go\ I'll drive. (Drive in fact predicts an object or 
a locative or both, as in I'll drive you to the station.) 

From these we can see that prediction is less strong than requirement. An expres- 
sion of manner is required with one sense of treat (they treated the prisoners badly) and 
with the intransitive verb behave (she has been behaving strangely lately). The verb last 
predicts an expression of extent in time (the concert lasted three hours); however, 
sometimes the lack of duration can be inferred as in Their love didn 't last. When predicted 
or required by the verb, elements such as place or time are analysed as circumstantial 
Complements, the equivalent of obligatory adverbials in some grammars. A cognitive- 
semantic view in terms of Source, Path and Goal, following verbs of motion, is given in 
chapters 8 and 12. 

Copular verbs, a type of intransitive, require a Subject Complement. Only verbs 
capable of being used as copulas can be used in this way. So, for instance, be and feel as 
in / am cold, I feel cold can be used as copulas in English but touch cannot (*/ touch cold). 


Besides predicting an attribute, verbs of being such as be, remain, stay predict being 
in a location. Their Complements are then analysed as locative (C loc ). 

The following examples illustrate the parallel between attributes as Subject and 
Object Complements and the Locative/Goal types. Evidently there are many other verbs 
which function in only one of these patterns: 

Attributive Locative/Goal 

He stayed calm He stayed in bed 

She went pale She went to work 

He drives me mad He drives me to the airport 

A bicycle will get you fit A bicycle will get you to work 

By contrast, adjuncts are not determined by any particular type of verb. Suddenly, for 
instance, can be used with intransitive verbs like disappear and transitive verbs like carry. 
Moreover, adjuncts differ from subjects and objects in that there is no limit to the number 
of adjuncts that can be included in a clause. 

4.2.2 Position 

Objects occur immediately after the verb, with the indirect object before the direct object 
when both are present (The bomb killed a policeman (Od); He sent me (Oi) an email (Od)). 
Complements also occur after the verb or after an object. Adjuncts occupy different 
positions according to type, and are often moveable within the clause. 

4.2.3 Ability to become the subject 

Objects can normally become the subject in a passive clause, since the system of voice 
allows different semantic roles to be associated with Subject and Object functions (The 
bomb killed the policeman/ The policeman was killed by the bomb; I sent her an email/ She 
was sent an email). 

However, passivisation with 'promotion' to subject is not a watertight criterion 
for the identification of object functions. It can be too exclusive and too inclusive. 
Passivisation excludes from object status NGs following verbs such as fit, which other- 
wise fulfil the criteria for objects (see 6.1.1). 

Conversely, passivisation can promote to subject NGs that are certainly not objects. 
Such is the case in the well-known example This bed was slept in by Queen Victoria, 
derived from the active Queen Victoria slept in this bed, in which this bed is part of 
a prepositional phrase (PP) functioning as a locative Complement, not as an object. A 
prepositional phrase has within it a nominal group, however, which increasingly 
in present-day English is able to become subject in a corresponding passive clause. 
Examples of this kind, such as The flowerbeds have been trampled on occur when the 
subject referent is visibly affected by the action, as is the case here, or acquires some 
importance, as in the case of the bed slept in by Queen Victoria. 


4.2.4 Realisations of these functions 

As participants, Objects are typically realised by NGs and answer questions with what? 
who? or which? as in What did they carry? in response to example 3 in 4. 1.2. 

Subject and Object Complements can be realised by Adjective groups (AdjG) (useful), 
as in 7a and 7b, or by a NG (a student), as in 8a and 8b. 

Circumstantial Adjuncts are realised by PPs (drive on the right) or AdvGs (drive slowly) 
and sometimes NGs (I'll see you next week). They generally answer questions with where? 
when? how? why? as in Where does he work? or How did it happen? 


Clausal elements or functions enter into varied relationships with each other to express 
different types of proposition concerning different states of affairs. These are exemplified 
as follows, and are treated further in Chapter 3. 

S-P Tom | disappeared 

S-P-Od We | hired | a car 

S-P-Oi-Od I | have sent | them | an invitation 

S-P-Cs My brother | is | a physiotherapist 

S-P-A He ] works | in London 

S-P-Od-Co They | appointed | James | First Secretary 

S-P-Od-C loc I | put | the dish | in the microwave 

The following extract illustrates some of the possible configurations of clause elements 
(where + stands for a coordinating element): 

At the hotel I I I paid I the driver I and gave I 
A S P Oi + P 

him I a tip. 1 1 The car I was I powdered with dust. 
Oi Od S P Cs 

I | rubbed | the rod-case | through the dust. 1 1 
S P Od A 

It I seemed I the last thing that connected me with 
S P Cs 


Spain and the fiesta. 1 1 The driver I put I the car I 
S P Od 

in gear | and | went | down the street. | I watched 

c loc + p c loc S P 

it turn off to take the road to Spain. 1 1 I | went | 
Od S P 

into the hotel I and I they I gave I me 1 1 a room. 1 1 
C loc + S P Oi Od 

It I was I the same room I had slept in when Bill and 
S P Cs 

Cohn and I were in Bayonne. || That | seemed | a very long time ago. || 

S P Cs 

Ernest Hemingway, Fiesta (The Sun Also Rises) 

In the remaining sections of this chapter we shall describe the syntactic features of each 
clausal function and the principal realisations of each, together with any relevant 
discourse characteristics. Reference will be made to the semantic roles associated with 
these elements, but these are dealt with more fully in Chapter 4. 

Clause functions such as Subject and Predicator are capitalised when first introduced. 
Later mentions are usually in lower case, with the exception of Complement as a clause 
function, which is always capitalised, in order to distinguish it from the complement of 
a noun, adjective or preposition. 


It is important to remember that, with the exception of the predicator function, there is 
no one-to-one correspondence between class of unit and syntactic function in English. 
So, whereas the predicator is always realised by a verbal group, the other functions 
display a considerable range of possible realisations by different classes of group and 
clause. It is true that most functions are typically realised by a certain class of unit (for 
example, subjects and objects by NGs), but the versatility of the language is such that 
almost any group or clause can realise these functions. As we analyse texts, or create 
our own, we must be aware that each function can be realised by different classes of 
unit, and each class of unit can perform various functions. 


In the following pages, the realisations of each clause element are arranged in order 
of typicality. We sometimes use the more exact word 'prototypical' for something that 
shows most of the characteristics of its type and is therefore a good example of the type 
or function, and 'non-prototypical' for something that is a less good example. A 
nominal group, for example, is a prototypical realisation of the subject function, whereas 
a prepositional group is non-prototypical in subject function. When the element is 
realised by the head-word of a group, the realisation is normally regarded as a group 




1 The Subject is the syntactic function identified by the features of position, 
concord, pronominalisation and reflection in question tags. Semantically, almost 
all participant roles can be associated with the subject. Cognitively, it is that 
element which has the highest claim to function as Topic in a specific clause in 
context. Syntactically, it is prototypically realised by a NG, but can also be 
realised by a wide variety of groups and clauses. 

2 The Predicator is the syntactic function that determines the number and type of 
Objects and Complements in a clause. It is identified syntactically by position 
and concord. It is associated with a number of semantic domains. 


5.1 .1 Semantic, cognitive and syntactic features 

A. Semantic and cognitive features 

The Subject is that functional category of the clause of which something is predicated. 
The prototypical subject represents the primary participant in the clause and has the 
strongest claim to the cognitive status of Topic - who or what the clausal message is 
primarily about (see 28.4). This means that in basic clauses (that is: finite, active, 
declarative clauses) of 'doing', the subject aligns with the semantic function of Agent, 
the one who carries out the action. If there is an agent in the event expressed by such 
a clause, that element will be the subject. 

However, the subject can be associated with almost every type of participant 
role. The following examples illustrate some of the possible roles aligned with the 


Jones kicked the ball into the net. (Agent ) 

The ball was kicked into the net. (Affected in a passive clause) 

Tom saw a snake near the river. (Experiencer in a mental process) (see 17.1) 

The secretary has been given some chocolates. (Recipient in a passive clause) 

Semantic roles are treated in Chapter 4, Topic and Theme in Chapter 6. 

8. Syntactic features 

The Subject is that syntactic function which, in English, must be present in declarative 
and interrogative clauses, but is not required in the imperative. In discourse, when two 
or more conjoined clauses have the same subject, all but the first are regularly ellipted. 

He came in, sat down and took out a cigarette. 

A clear and easy criterion is the question tag. The Subject is that element which is 
picked up in a question tag (see 23.8) and referred to anaphorically by a pronoun: 

Your brother is a ski instructor, isn't he? 
Susie won't mind waiting a moment, will she? 

The Subject is placed before the finite verb in declarative clauses, and in wh- 
interrogative clauses where the w/2-element is Subject (see 23.6): 

Unfortunately, everyone left early. 
Who came in late last night? 

It is placed after the finite operator (the first element of the VG, 2.5.2) in yes/ no 
interrogative clauses, and in w^-interrogative clauses in which the wA-element is not 
Subject (see 23.6): 

Are you pleased with the result? 

Did everyone leave early? 

What film did you see last night? ( What film is Object) 

When did Sylvia get back? (When is Adjunct) 

When pronouns are used, the pronominal forms - /, he, she, we and they - are used to 
realise subject function, in contrast to the objective forms me, him, her, us and them, which 
are used for Objects. You and it are the same for both. Possessive forms may stand 
as subject: 

Yours was rather difficult to read. 
Jennifer's got lost in the post. 

Subjects determine the concord of number (singular or plural) and person with the verb. 
Concord is manifested only in those verb forms that show inflectional contrast: 


The librarian I he /she /has checked the book. 

The librarians/ 1/ you/ we/ they have checked the book. 

Where is my credit card? Where are my credit cards'? 

With verb forms that show no number or person contrast - such as had, in the money 
had all been spent - we can apply the criterion of paradigmatic contrast with a present 
form such as has (the money has all been spent). 

When the Subject is realised by a collective noun, concord depends on how the 
referent is visualised by the speaker: 

The committee is sitting late, (seen as a whole) 

The committee have decided to award extra grants, (seen as a number of members) 

Subjects determine number, person and gender concord with the Subject 
Complement, and of reflexive pronouns at Cs, Oi and Od: 

Jean and Bill are my friends. 

She cut herself (Od) on a piece of broken glass. 

Why don't you give yourself (Oi) a treat? 

5.1 .2 Realisations of the Subject 

Subjects can be realised by various classes of groups and clauses: 

A. Nominal Groups - That man is crazy 

Nominal groups are the most prototypical realisation of subject, as they refer basically 
to persons and things. They can range from simple heads (see 45.3.1) to the full 
complexity of NG structures (see 50.1): 

Cocaine can damage the heart as well as the brain. 

The precise number of heart attacks from using cocaine is not known. 

It is alarming. 

B. Dummy it - It's hot 

This is a non-referential or semantically empty use of the pronoun it, which occurs in 
expressions of time, weather and distance, such as: 

It's nearly three o'clock. 

It's raining. 

It is six hundred kilometres from Madrid to Barcelona. 

Syntactically, English requires the presence of a subject even in such situations, in order 
to distinguish between declaratives and interrogatives: 

Is it raining? How far is it from here to Barcelona? 


There is no plural concord with a NG complement, as would occur in Spanish 
counterparts, for example: Son las tres. Son seiscientos kilometros a Barcelona. 

C. Unstressed there - There's plenty of time 

Unstressed there (see 19.3; 30.4) fulfils several of the syntactic criteria for subject: 
position, inversion with auxiliaries and repetition in tag phrases; but unlike normal 
subjects it cannot be replaced by a pronoun. Concord, when made, is with the following 

There was only one fine day last week, wasn't there? 
There were only two fine days last week, weren't there? 

Concord with the following NG is made in writing, but not always in informal spoken 
English with the present tense of be, and is never made when the NG is a series of proper 

How many are coming? Well, there's Andrew and Silvia, and Jo and Pete. 
*There are Andrew and Silvia and Jo and Pete. 

Because of the lack of concord and pronominalisation, unstressed there can be 
considered as a subject 'place-holder' or 'syntactic filler', rather than a full subject, since 
the unit following the verb is clearly the notional subject. For its function as a 
presentative device, see 30.4. 

The following comment on Monte Carlo by J. G. Ballard in The Week illustrates some 
of the syntactic features and realisations of the Subject (see exercise). 

Have you ever been to Monte Carlo? 1 it 's totally dedicated to expensive shopping. 2 
You go to these gallerias and walk past a great temple to ultra-expensive watches, 
then another to ultra-expensive clothes. 3 It's quite incredible 4 - you see the future of 
the human race there. 5 There is a particularly big galleria, which never has anyone 
inside it. 6 ff's five or six floors of cool, scented air, with no one in it. 7 . / thought to 
myself - is this supposed to be heaven? 8 And / realised that, no, it's not heaven 9 It's 
The Future. 10 

D. Prepositional phrase and Adverbial group as subject - Now is the time 

These function only marginally as subject and usually specify meanings of time or place, 
but instrumental meanings and idiomatic manner uses can also occur. 

Will up in the front suit you? (PP of place) 
Before midday would be convenient. (PP of time) 
By plane costs more than by train. (PP of means) 


Just here would be an ideal place for a picnic. (AdvG of place) 
Slowly /gently does it! (AdvG of manner) 

E. Adjectival head - the poor 

The Adjectival Group as such does not function as subject. However, certain adjectives 
- preceded by a definite determiner, normally the definite article, and which represent 
either (a) conventionally recognised classes of people, as in The handicapped are 
given special facilities in public places, or (b) abstractions - can function as heads of 
(non-prototypical) NGs (see 51.5). The latter type is illustrated in this extract from a 
book blurb: 

This novel plunges the reader into a universe in which the comic, the tragic, the real 
and the imagined dissolve into one another. 

F. Embedded clauses (see 3.6.3) 

Clauses can realise every element or function of clause structure except the predicator. 
Cognitively, this means that we as speakers encode, as the main elements of clauses, 
not only persons and things but facts, abstractions and situations. Both finite and 
non-finite clauses are available for embedding but not every clause function is realised 
by all types of clause. The main types were outlined in Chapter 1. Here five of the 
relevant one(s) are referred to when describing the realisations of subject, objects and 

There are two main types of embedded finite clause: fftaf-clauses and w/r-clauses, 
the latter being either indirect interrogative clauses or nominal relative clauses. They 
are illustrated in the following examples, where they all realise the subject element. 

That he failed his driving test surprised everybody, (rtaf-clause) 

Why the library was closed for months was not explained, (w/2-interrogative) 

What he said shocked me. (w/2-nominal relative clause) 

r/rat-clauses at subject are used only in formal styles in English. In everyday use they 
are more acceptable if they are preceded by the fact. The that-c\ause thus becomes 
complement of a NG functioning as subject: 

The fact that he failed his driving test surprised everybody. (NG) 

A more common alternative is to extrapose the subject that-clause, as in It surprised 
everybody that he failed his driving test, explained in G. below. 

W/t-interrogative clauses express indirect questions. They do not take the 
inversion characteristic of ordinary interrogatives, however; so, for instance, * Why was 
the library closed for months was not explained is not acceptable. 

Nominal relative clauses also have a wh- element, but they express entities and 
can be paraphrased by 'that which' or 'the thing(s) which' as in: 

What he said pleased me = 'that which'/the things which he said pleased me. 


Non-finite clauses at Subject are of two main types, depending on the VG they 
contain: to-infinitive, which can be introduced by a wh-word, and -ing clauses. (The 
third non-finite clause type, the -en clause, is not used in this way.) The 'bare' infinitive 
is marginally used: 

To take such a risk was rather foolish, (to-inf. clause) 
Where to leave the dog is the problem, (wh- + to-inf. clause) 
Having to go back for the tickets was a nuisance, (-ing clause) 
Move the car was what we did. (bare infinitive clause) 

Tb-infinitive and -ing clauses at subject can have their own subject; bare infinitive clauses 
cannot. A to-infinitive clause with its own subject is introduced by for. 

For everyone to escape was impossible. (For + S + to-inf.) 

Sam having to go back for the tickets was a nuisance. (S + ing-cl.) 

The pronominal subject of an -ing clause can be in the possessive or the objective case. 
The objective form is the less formal: 

Him/ his having to go back for the tickets was a nuisance. 

G. Anticipatory it + extraposed subject - It was silly to say that 

Subjects such as that he failed to pass the driving test and for everyone to escape sound 
awkward and top-heavy, especially in spoken English. The derived structure with 
'anticipatory it is now generally preferred, as it is much easier to encode and the 
pronoun it is the 'lightest' possible subject filler: 

It surprised everybody that he failed his driving test. 
It was impossible for everyone to escape. 

Here the that-clause or the to-infinitive clause is extraposed (see 30.5), that is, placed 
after the Od (everybody) or Cs (impossible). The initial subject position is filled by the 
pronoun it. Extraposition is commonly used in both speech and writing, especially 
when the subject is long and heavy, and is better placed at the end of the sentence, in 
accordance with the informational and stylistic principle of 'end-weight' (see 30.3.2). 

Extraposed subjects frequently occur as the complement of a noun or adjective in 
SPCs structures, as in the following illustrations: 

It's easy to forget your keys. (To forget your keys is easy) 

It's a pity (that) you are leaving the firm. (That you are leaving the firm is a pity) 

It is time he stopped fooling around. 

Notice that, for the apparently extraposed clause that follows It is (high) time, there is no 
corresponding pattern with the clause in initial position (* That he stopped fooling around 
is high time). 


Likewise, the clause following it + verbs of seeming (seem, appear) and happening 
(happen, turn out), is obligatorily extraposed: 

It seems that you were right after all. (*That you were right after all seems.) 

It so happened that the driver lost control. (*That the driver lost control happened.) 

Pronouns account for a high percentage of subjects in the spoken language, as can 
be seen in the following recorded dialogue about the mini-skirt. Several other types of 
subject are also illustrated in the main and embedded clauses of this text, including two 
different functions of it. 

Q. What about the mini-skirt itself? What was the origin of that? 

A. That 1 started in the East End of London. Mary Quant 2 picked it up and then 
a lot of other designers 3 did too. I 4 think again it 5 was reaction against the long 
skirts of the 1 950s. It 6 was smart to get much, much shorter. I 7 think that, partly, 
if 8 was fun to shock your father and older people, but ft 9 was also a genuinely 
felt fashion, as we 10 can see by the fact that it spread nearly all over the world. 
/" think if 2 is a lovely look, long leggy girls. The fact that fat legs are seen, 
too, 13 is just bad luck. But l u still don't think that the mini-skirt* 5 is going to 
disappear for some time. /' 6 think girls u just love the feeling. 

'demonstrative pronoun; 2 proper noun; 3 NG; 4 pronoun; 5 pronoun: 6 anticipatory it 

+ to-infinitive; 'pronoun; 8 anticipatory it + to-infinitive; 'pronoun; '"pronoun; 

"pronoun; ,2 anticipatory it + NG; u the fact + that-clause; '"pronoun; ,5 NG; 
''pronoun; i7 NG 

(Janey Ironside in Artists Talking: Five artists talk to Anthony Schooling) 


We use the term Predicator for the clause element present in all major types of clause, 
including the imperative clause (in which the subject is not usually present in English). 

The predicator is the clause function that largely determines the remaining structure 
of the clause, by virtue of being intransitive, transitive or copular. 

As seen in 4.1, the predicator may constitute the whole of the predicate, as in The 
plane landed, or part of it, as in The plane landed on the runway. 

The predicator is identified by position in relation to the subject. 

The predicator function is realised by both finite (e.g. waits) and non-finite (waiting) 
lexical and primary verbs. 

Functionally, finiteness is often carried by an auxiliary verb - such as is, was - to 
specify tense (past/present) and voice (be + -en), and is then followed by the predicator 
(is making, was made). For the Finite-Subject relation in interrogative structures, see 
Chapter 5. 


Semantically, the predicator encodes the following main types of 'process': 

material processes of 'doing' with verbs such as make, catch, go; 

mental processes of 'experiencing', with cognitive verbs of perception (e.g. see), 

cognition (know), affectivity (like) and desideration (hope); and 

relational processes of 'being' with verbs such as be and belong. 

These, and certain subsidiary types, are discussed in Chapter 4. 

Phrasal verbs and prepositional verbs are discussed in this chapter (as clause element) 
and in Chapter 8 (as regards meaning). 

The following passage about the Valley of the Kings shows the Predicator function 
in both finite and non-finite clauses (see exercise): 

It [the Valley of the Kings] lies about six hundred kilometres south of Cairo, the 
present-day capital of Egypt, near the Nile. 1 Across the river is the city of Luxor, 2 
once called Thebes and one of the greatest capitals of the ancient world. 3 This dusty, 
dried-up river valley is the most magnificent burial ground in the world. 4 During the 
second millennium B.C., Egyptian workers quarried a series of tombs beneath this 
valley, 5 decorating them with mysterious predictions of the underworld 6 and filling 
them with treasures. 7 There, with infinite care and artistry, they laid out the 
mummified and bejewelled bodies of their rulers 8 and surrounded them with their 
belongings, 9 making the valley one of the greatest sacred sites in history. 10 

(Gerald O'Farrell, The Tutankamun Deception) 





1 The Direct Object (Od) and Indirect Object (Oi) are central syntactic functions 
which encode participants in transitive clauses, and are identified by the 
following features: 

2 Position. In clauses with one Object, The Direct Object follows the verb (She 
wanted to borrow a video). When there are two Objects, the Direct Object 
follows the Indirect Object (So I lent her (Oi) one (Od)). 

3 Paraphrase. The Oi usually has an alternative prepositional paraphrase (I lent 
one to fier), with the status of a Prepositional Object, but the Od has not. 

4 Pronominalisation. Since objects encode participants, they can be realised by 
objective case pronouns (me, him, her, us, them). 

5 'Promotion' to subject in a passive clause. Both direct and indirect objects usually 
have the potential of being subject in a corresponding passive clause (He sent 
them a fax. The fax (S) was sent. They (S) were sent a fax). 

6 Semantic roles. The indirect object is associated with the Recipient and 
Beneficiary roles, the direct object with the Affected, among others. 

7 Realisations. Both Objects are realised typically by Nominal Groups expressing 
entities; less typically by other classes of unit. 


6.1 .1 Syntactic and semantic features 

After the subject and the predicator, the direct object is the most central of all clause 
constituents. It is characterised by the following features: 


It occurs only in transitive clauses with transitive verbs such as hit, buy, send. 

It is placed immediately after the predicator, but follows an indirect object, if there 

I have sent the invitations (Od). 

I have sent everyone (Oi) an invitation (Od). 

It is typically realised by a NG, as in / saw the burglar (NG), but may also be realised 
by embedded clauses, as in I saw what he did (cl.). 

It can generally be 'promoted' to become subject in a corresponding passive 
clause - 

The invitations (S) have been sent, (corresponding to the Od in / have sent the 

Direct objects can be tested for, by questions beginning with Who(m)? What? Which? 
How much/ many? and by w/2-clefts. 

What did you send? 

What I sent were the invitations (w/2-cleft) 

Semantically, a prototypical direct object occurs in a high-transitivity situation (see 
21.4) - that is, in a process of 'doing' in which the referent's state or location is 
affected in some way, as in the first example below. 

However the Od is associated with a wide variety of semantic roles in which 'affected- 
ness' is not a feature, and with many types of verbs (see Chapter 4), some of which are 
illustrated in the following examples: 

He headed the ball into the net. (Affected) 

The burglars used an acetylene lamp to break open the safe. (Instrument) 

I felt a sudden pain in my arm. (Phenomenon: i.e. that which is experienced) 

He gave the door a push. (Range: i.e. the nominalised extension of the verb; see 

He swam the Channel. (Affected locative) 

The highly non-prototypical Range Ods (20.2) include have a rest/ smoke/ drink; take a 
sip/ nap, give a kick/nudge, do a dance, and many others. The NG in these cases is a 
deverbal noun (i.e. derived from a verb) which follows a verb that is 'light' in semantic 
content such as have. Such combinations are very common. 

The Channel in swim the Channel is a direct object, whereas in swim across the Channel 
it is the NG complement of a prepositional phrase functioning as Adjunct. The difference 
is that the Od version is more integrated within the clause, and perhaps for this reason 
appears to present the event as more of an achievement. The same difference is present 
in climb Everest and ride a horse vs climb up Everest and ride on a horse, respectively. The 
achievement is clearly completed in the former case, but leaves open the possibility of 


incompletion in the latter. Speech act deverbal nouns such as promise and warning are 
commonly used as Ods, in some cases following a light verb (make), in others a specific 
verb (issue): 

He made a promise 
He issued a warning 

6.1 .2 Realisations of the Direct Object 

The Direct Object can be realised by groups and by clauses. There are five main 

A. Nominal Group We hired a caravan 

The typical realisation of the Direct Object function is the nominal group, ranging from 
a pronoun 1 or proper name to full NGs 2. In fact, as new entities are often introduced 
into the discourse in object position, the principle of end-weight (see 30.3.2) can make 
for the frequent occurrence of longer and more complex NGs at Direct Object in certain 
registers as in 3: 

1 I don't understand it. 

2 Have you read that new novel I lent you? 

3 Forest fires are threatening the world's remaining population of orang-utangs. 

A small number of common verbs take untypical direct objects. They include verbs 
such as have (They have two cars), cost (it cost ten pounds), lack (She lacks confidence), 
resemble (She resembles her elder sister), fit (Do these shoes fit you?), suit (That colour 
doesn't suit me), weigh (The suitcase weighs twenty kilos), contain (That box contains 
explosives) and measure (It measures two metres by three.) All these answer questions with 
What? Who? How much/how many?, as is usual with Ods. These verbs don't passivise, 
but their Ods pass the wh-cleft test: What she lacks is confidence. 

B. Anticipatory it - I find it strange that she left 

The semantically empty pronoun it is necessary as an 'anticipatory Direct Object' in 
SPOdCo structures in which the Od is realised by a finite or non-finite clause: 

(Od) Co Od 






might consider 




must find 



that he refuses to come, 
for you to leave now. 
having so many fans. 


C. Prepositional Phrase - The boss prefers before 1 for the meeting 
Prepositional phrases of time or place can marginally realise direct object: 

I would prefer before noon for a meeting. 
Don't choose by a swamp for a picnic. 

D. Finite clause - You know (that) I'm right 

The two types of finite clause found at subject can also function as a less prototypical 
Direct Object: nominal rtaf-clauses, that often being omitted in informal styles, and 
w/2-clauses (see Chapter 3). 

They fear that there may be no survivors, (nominal that-clause) 

No-one knows where he lives, (w/2-clause) 

You can eat whatever you like. (wA-nominal clause) 

Both f/jcrt-clauses and wA-clauses at Od can sometimes become subject in a passive 
clause and then extraposed: 

It is feared that there may be no survivors, (extraposed cl.) 
It is not known where he lives. 

However, passivisation is not a unique criterion for assigning object status. A more 
reliable test is the w/2-cleft paraphrase, as seen above. We can apply this to the following 
example with wonder, which rejects passivisation but fulfils the wh-deft test: 

I wonder whether they know the truth. 
*Whether they know the truth is wondered. 
What I wonder is whether they know the truth. 

E. Non-finite clause - They enjoy travelling by train 

Non-finite clauses realising Direct Object function are of two types: infinitive clauses 
with or without to, and -ing clauses. 

Many Londoners prefer to travel by train. 
Many Londoners prefer travelling by train. 

We analyse such clauses as embedded at Od on the strength of the following criteria: 

The non-finite clause can be replaced by a NG [prefer the train) or by it/that 
(prefer it). 

The non-finite clause can be made the focus of a wh-cleft sentence ( What many 
Londoners prefer is to travel/ travelling by train). 


However, not all non-finites pass these tests. We do not analyse as embedded clauses 
at direct object 'phased' verbal groups with certain types of catenatives, as in He failed 
to appear, I tried to speak (see 39.2). Although superficially similar, they do not fulfil the 
above criteria. Taking He failed to appear, we can't say *He failed it, nor make a 
corresponding cleft *What he failed was to appear. In both cases it would be necessary 
to add to do; What he failed to do was appear, which confirms the phased nature of such 
VGs. As a full lexical verb, as in fail the exam, fail does of course fulfil these criteria. 

Many embedded clauses at direct object occur with an explicit subject of their own; 
otherwise, the implicit subject is the same as that of the main clause: 

(i) to-infinitive clause - 

The villagers want to leave immediately, (implicit subject [they]) 

The villagers want the soldiers to leave immediately, (explicit subject the soldiers) 

(ii) -ing clause - 

Do you mind waiting a few minutes'! (with implicit subject) 
Do you mind me/ my waiting a few minutes? (with explicit subject in objective 
or possessive case) 

(iii) to-infinitive or -ing clause - 

He hates telling lies, (implicit subject) 

He hates people telling lies, (explicit subject) 

He hates for people to tell lies, (for + explicit subject + to-inf) (AmE) 

Again, non-finite clauses are very non-prototypical direct objects. They represent 
situations, not entities, and do not easily passivise. However, many can become the focus 
in a wh-deft: What he hates is people telling lies/ for people to tell lies. 

The following news item, 'Fire Threat to Apes' from The Week, illustrates some of 
the realisations of subject and object functions (see exercise 2, p. 77). 

Coal fires raging deep underground in the forests of Borneo could threaten the 
world's remaining populations of wild orang-utans.^ Scientists fear that the blazes 
may trigger another devastating cycle of forest fires, 2 reducing the apes' habitat to 
the point of extinction. 3 Scientists have identified 1 50 fires in the region 4 - but suspect 
the total number could exceed 3,000. 5 Coalfield fires expert Dr. Alfred Whitehouse 
described the devastation caused by underground fires he witnessed in the Kutai 
national park. 6 "The orang-utans are driven into smaller and smaller areas of forest," 
he said. 7 "It was tragic. 8 /was in a mining area 9 and there were three orang-utans 
hanging to the last standing tree. 10 



6.2.1 Syntactic and semantic features 

The indirect object occurs only with verbs which can take two objects such as give, send. 
Its position in clause structure is between the verb and the direct object: I sent them 
a fax. 

It is typically realised by a NG, but occasionally by a w/2-nominal clause. As a 
pronoun, it is in the objective case. 

The indirect object is associated with two semantic roles, Recipient (the one who 
receives the goods or information), and the Beneficiary or 'intended recipient'. The 
differences between the two are reflected in the syntax. 

Recipient Oi 

Beneficiary Oi 

She has lent me a few CDs. 

I'll buy you a drink. 

The doctor gave the injured man oxygen. 

He got us the tickets. 

Sammy Karanja is teaching the students 

She left him a note. 

In passive counterparts the Recipient Oi corresponds to the subject. By contrast, 
most Beneficiary Objects do not easily become subject in a passive clause, although 
this restriction is not absolute, at least for some speakers: 

Recipient as Subject 

Beneficiary as Subject 

1 have been lent a few CDs. 

*You'll be bought a drink. 

The injured man was given oxygen. 

*We were got the tickets. 

The students are being taught maths by Sammy Karanja. 

He was left a note. 

Both Recipient and Beneficary Oi have an optional prepositional paraphrase, which 
functions as a Prepositional Object. For the Recipient, the preposition is to, for the 
Beneficiary it is for. The prepositional form is often used to bring the Oi into focus, 
particularly when it is longer than the Od: 

The doctor gave oxygen to the injured man. I'll buy drinks for you all. 
She lent a few CDs to her next-door neighbour. He got the tickets for us all. 
He is teaching maths to the first-year students. She left a note for her husband. 

The Oi can generally be left unexpressed without affecting the grammaticality of 
the clause: 


The doctor gave oxygen. I'll buy the drinks. 

He doesn't like lending his CDs. He got the tickets. 
Sammy Karanja is teaching maths. She left a note. 

With some verbs (show, tell, teach, etc.) the Od may be unexpressed: 

Who told you (the answer)? 

Perhaps you could show me (how to do it.) 

He's teaching immigrant children (maths). 

6.2.2 Realisations of the Indirect Object 

Both Recipient and Beneficiary Indirect Objects are typically realised by NGs, and less 
typically by w/i-nominal relative clauses, which occur more usually as a prepositional 

The clerk handed him the envelope. (Recip./NG) 

You can lend the dictionary to whoever needs it. (Recip./nom. relative cl.) 

Phil has booked all his friends tickets for the show. (Ben/NG) 

More marginally, a Recipient Oi can be realised by a non-finite -ing clause or a PP, but 
these options are not open to a Beneficiary Oi, which always refers to an entity: 

I'm giving reading magazines less importance lately, (-ing cl) 
Let's give before lunch-time priority. (PP) 


A subsidiary type of Object is that which is mediated by a preposition. We will call this 
the Prepositional Object (Op) - Oblique Object is another term - as in: 

Jo looked after my cat. 

You can rely on Jane in an emergency. 

The other kids all laughed at Amy when she got her face dirty. 

These examples all have in common the following characteristics: 

• The NG following the preposition encodes a participant in the clause structure. 
The preposition is associated with a particular verb, often called a prepositional 
verb. Idiomatic prepositional verbs have separate lexical entries in dictionaries. 
Without the preposition, the clause would either be ungrammatical (*look my cat, 
*count Jane, *laughed Amy) or, in some cases, have a different meaning altogether, 
as in see to the baggage (attend to it) as opposed to see the baggage. 


The preposition can't be replaced by another preposition without changing the 
meaning (look after the cat, look for the cat, look at the cat). 

6.3.1 Types of verb + preposition combinations 

There are three main types of prepositional verb, as illustrated by the previous examples. 

Type A (look + after] 

This combination functions as a lexical unit in which the verb + the preposition together 
have a different meaning from their separate words. 'Look after' has nothing to do with 
looking, nor with the usual meaning of 'after'in relation to space or time. Other verbs of 
this type are exemplified here: 

I came across some old photos (find) She takes after her mother (resemble) 
How did you come by that job (obtain) We took to each other at once (like) 
Sandy has come into a fortune (inherit) I've gone off yogurt (lose the liking for) 

Type B (rely + on) 

This is a less idiomatic combination whose meaning is sometimes, though not always, 
transparent. Verbs in this group - account for (explain), refer to, tamper with (interfere 
with) - are not used without their specific preposition: 

How do you account for the lack of interest in the European elections? 
Someone has been tampering with the scanner. 

Type C (laugh + at) 

The verb + preposition represents a special use, usually with a distinctive meaning, of 
a verb which otherwise can function without the preposition (for example, Everyone 
laughed; Don't laugh). Other verbs include look (at), believe (in), count (on), hear (of), wait 
(for), hope (for). 

look at the sky hear of a good offer 
wait for the bus hope for a rise in salary 


6.3.2 Syntactic behaviour of prepositional verbs 

Applying some of the constituency tests (see 2.2), we find the following: 

Type A 

The verb + preposition behave syntactically as one unit, whereas the PP 'after the cat' 
does not, as regards fronting, focus of a cleft, w/?-question and adverb insertion: 




My cat Jo looked after. 

* After my cat Jo looked. 

Focus of a cleft: 

It's my cat (that) Jo looked after. 

* It's after my cat (that) Jo looked. 


Whose cat did Jo look after? 

* After whose cat did Jo look? 

Adverb insertion: 

Jo looked after my cat carefully. 

?Jo looked carefully after my cat. 


The PP can function as an independent unit, although the effect is marked and very 
formal. In spoken English the preposition preferably stays close to the verb: 




On Jane you can rely. 

Jane you can rely on. 

Focus of a cleft: 

It's on Jane (that) you can rely. 

It's Jane you can rely on. 


On whom can you rely? 

Who can you rely on? 

Adverb insertion: 

You can rely totally on Jane. 

Who can you totally rely on? 

Type C 

Syntactically, the PP functions in the same way as Type B. However, the formal variant 
is at odds with the type of verb that usually falls into this group. 



Focus of a cleft: 

At Amy the kids laughed. 

It was at Amy that they laughed. 

At whom did the kids laugh? 

Amy the kids laughed at. 
It was Amy they laughed at. 
Who did the kids laugh at? 


6.3.3 Stranding the preposition 

When the preposition stays close to its verb, as occurs in the examples on the right, we 
say that it is stranded, that is, displaced from its position in a PP. The verb and the 
preposition stay together, with the stress usually on the verb. Stranding of prepositions 
occurs, not only in the structures illustrated, but also with prepositional verbs used in 
passive clauses, as we'll see in a moment, and in relative clauses, as in the following: 

Non-stranded preposition 

Stranded preposition 

*The cat after which Jo looked . . . 
The person on whom you can rely . . . 
The girl at whom the kids laughed . . . 

The cat that Jo looked after . . . 
The person you can rely on . . . 
The girl the kids laughed at . . . 

Taking all these tests together, it is clear that in idiomatic Type A combinations, the 
preposition always stays close to the verb, that is, it is always stranded. In Type B and 
Type C, the whole prepositional phrase can stay together as a unit, although this is 
a marked option in spoken English. The non-stranded form, when it occurs, is reserved 
for highly formal contexts and formal text types, such as academic prose. But even 
in highly formal contexts the stranded form is usually preferred in spoken English, as 
the following quotation illustrates. The speaker is the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, 
addressing the United Nations Council in February 2003: 

What we need is not more inspections.What we need is not more immediate access. 
What we need is immediate full unconditional cooperation by Irak. To this day we 
have not seen the level of cooperation that was expected, looked for, hoped for. 

6.3.4 The prepositional passive 

The previous quotation also illustrates stranding in the prepositional passive (was looked 
for, hoped for). In many combinations, although not in all, the NG complement of a PP 
can become subject in a passive clause. The preposition is obligatorily stranded: 

My cat was looked after 
Jane can be relied on 
Amy was laughed at 

*After my cat was looked 
*On Jane can be relied 
*At Amy was laughed 

6.3.5 Realisations of the Prepositional Object 

Experientially, the unit following the preposition is seen as a participant in the situation, 
for the reasons previously discussed. NGs are the typical realisations of the Op, but 
nominal clauses and non-finite -ing clauses also occur: 


He almost ran over a rabbit on a country road last night. (NG) 
I strongly object to what you are insinuating, (nominal clause) 
He believes in getting things done as quickly as possible, (-ing cl.) 

It is clear that verbs which control prepositions do not constitute a homogeneous 
class. There are various degrees of integration, ranging from the relatively loosely inte- 
grated such as smile (at) and wait (for), where the verb can function without a preposition, 
to those which bond with the preposition to form a new lexical unit (look after, take 
to). The latter are given separate entries in dictionaries and, in those dictionaries 
which provide grammatical information, are given different analyses. The PP following 
Type 3 verbs such as smile and wait is often classified as Adjunct or as prepositional 
Complement (PPC). According to use in context, one analysis may be more suitable 
than another. 

In this book we use the term prepositional Object for the NG complement of a 
preposition which can refer to a participant, distinguishing this function from that of the 
circumstantial PP functioning as C loc or as Adjunct. Compare, for example, We waited 
for the bus with We waited at the bus-stop, where at the bus-stop is Adjunct. The distinction 
is not absolute, however, as we saw in the example This bed was slept in by Queen Victoria. 
Cognitive factors of attention and salience intervene to allow some of the NGs in 
circumstantial PPs to become subjects, as in this house hasn't been lived in. 


Phrasal verbs consist of a lexical verb + an adverbial 'particle' (p). They can be 
intransitive (without an Object: get up) or transitive (taking a Direct Object: switch it off). 
Phrasal prepositional verbs consist of a lexical verb + a particle + a preposition (put 
up with). They function like idiomatic prepositional verbs. 

6.4.1 Syntactic features 

Phrasal verbs are combinations of a lexical verb and an adverbial particle (p) (get up, 
switch on/ off, take back, sit down). They may be intransitive, with no object, as in 1 or 
transitive (with a direct object) as in 2 and 3: 

1 What time do you usually get up in the morning? 

2a She switched off the light. 2b She switched the light off. 

3 She switched it off. 

With a noun as Object, the particle in most cases may either precede or follow the object 
as in 2. But if the Object is a pronoun, the particle is placed after it, as in 3. 

The motivation for this choice has to do with the distribution of information. 
We focus on the new information by placing it last. So in 2a the new information is the 
light; while in 2b and 3 it is the switching off (see Chapter 6). Pronouns do not usually 
represent new information and are placed before the particle. 

This choice of emphasing either the noun or the particle is not possible with a 
synonymous one-word verb. Compare: 


They cancelled the wedding, (focus on wedding) 
They called off the wedding, (focus on wedding) 
They called the wedding off. (focus on off) 

Some verb + particle combinations can be used both transitively and intransitively, 
e.g. blow up (= explode), break down (= reduce to pieces). In some cases the transitive 
and intransitive clauses form an ergative pair (see 15.1) with a causative meaning in the 

Terrorists have blown up the power station, (transitive) 
The power station has blown up. (intransitive) 

while in others the meaning is related by metaphorical extension: 

They broke down the door to rescue the child, (transitive) 
Her health broke down under the strain, (intransitive) 
The car has broken down. (= stop working) (intransitive) 

6. 4. 2 Differences between phrasal verbs and prepositional verbs 

We explain here differences of position, stress and adverb insertion in the clause, 
illustrating them with the phrasal verb break up and the prepositional verb break with, 
as in He broke up the party (phrasal verb) and He broke with his girl-friend (prepositional 

A pronoun follows a preposition but precedes the particle of a phrasal verb (as 
elsewhere, the asterisk indicates an ungrammatical sequence): 

He broke with her. He broke it up. 
*He broke her with. *He broke up it. 

The particle in phrasal verbs is stressed, especially when in final position in the clause, 
whereas a preposition is normally unstressed. In prepositional verbs the stress normally 
falls on the verb (capitals indicate the stressed syllable; see also 29.2): 

He broke it UP. He has BROken with her. 

Which party did he break UP? Which girl has he BROken with? 

As seen in 6.3.2. Type B, an adverb can sometimes be placed between a verb and its 
following preposition. Phrasal verbs do not normally admit an adverb between the verb 
and the particle: 

*He broke completely up the party. He broke completely with his girl-friend. 

In idiomatic phrasal verbs the particle is usually analysed as part of the verb (peter out. 
There is no separate verb 'peter') In 'free' combinations in which the adverb particle 
is directional, this is analysed as Complement, as in The rain came down. The adverbial 


particle can be fronted (Down came the rain) for rhetorical purposes, and this mobility is 
a feature of Complements and Adjuncts. With non-directional meanings, the adverbial 
particle is inseparable from the verb, and can't be fronted (The car broke down, *Down 
broke the car). 

The semantics of phrasal verbs is described in Chapter 8. 

6.4.3 Phrasal-prepositional verbs 

Phrasal-prepositional verbs consist of a lexical verb followed by an adverbial particle 
and a preposition, in that order: run up against, do away with. They are particularly 
characteristic of informal English, and new combinations are constantly being coined. 
Phrasal-prepositional verbs function like prepositional verbs, taking a prepositional 
object in the clause: 

We ran up against difficulties, (^encounter) 

They have done away with free school meals. (=abolish) 

Finally, it is important to realise that many verbs, whether single- or multi-word, can 
be followed by a PP functioning as a circumstantial Complement in the clause, as in 
They went into the garden. They express meanings of place, direction, time or means. 
They are generally questioned by Where, when or how (Where did they go (to)? How 
did you come?) as opposed to What? Who? as is usual with Objects. 

Multi-word verb 

Prepositional Object 

PP as Adjunct or Comp. 

I'll call on 

Dr. Jones 

I'll call 

on Friday 

They looked into 

the matter 

They looked 

into the cave 

She came by 

a fortune 

She came 

by bus 

I'll stand by 

my word 

I'll stand 

by the window 

We put up with 

the noise 

We put up 

at a hotel 

They played on 

our sympathy 

They played 

on their home ground 

Furthermore, there is a parallel between intransitive phrasals like walk down and 
single verbs of movement followed by a directional Complement (walk down the stairs). 
In many cases, it is possible to analyse the former as the ellipted version of the latter, 
especially when the situation is known. 

These alternatives also allow us to specify direction as Path + Ground or as Path 
alone. (These notions are explained in Module 40.) Compare: 

He walked down the stairs. 
S P C (Path + Ground) 

He walked down. 
S P C (Path) 


In this passage from Three Men in a Boat, the three friends decide to have a picnic (see 
exercise 6 on p. 78): 

When George drew out 1 a tin of pineapple from the bottom of the hamper and rolled 
it into the middle of the boat, we felt that life was worth living after all. We are very 
fond of pineapple, all three of us. We looked at the picture 2 on the tin; we thought 
of the juice. 3 We smiled at one another, 4 and Harris got a spoon ready. 

Then we looked for something to open the tin with. 5 We turned out 6 everything 
in the hamper. We turned out 7 the bags. We pulled up 8 the boards at the bottom of 
the boat. We took everything out 9 on to the bank and shook it. There was no tin- 
opener to be found. 

Then Harris tried to open the tin with a pocket-knife, and broke the knife and cut 
himself badly; and George tried a pair of scissors, and the scissors flew up™ and 
nearly put his eye out. u While they were dressing their wounds, I tried to make a 
hole in the tin with the spiky end of the boat pole, and the pole slipped and jerked 
me oufi 2 between the boat and the bank into two feet of muddy water, and the tin 
rolled over u and broke a tea-cup. 





1 There are two main types of Complement: that which complements the Subject 
(Cs) and that which complements the Object (Co). The Subject Complement 
completes the predicate after a copular verb by specifying an Attribute of the 
Subject or its identity. No passivisation is possible. The Subject Complement 
can be realised by AdjGs, by definite and indefinite NGs, and by clauses. 

2 The Object Complement (Co) completes the predicate with an AdjG or a NG 
following a direct object. The Direct Object, but not the Complement, can 
become subject in a passive clause. The Co is realised by AdjGs, definite and 
indefinite NGs and clauses. 

3 When the Cs is a pronoun, use is divided between the subjective and the 
objective case. The Co pronoun is always objective. 


7.1 .1 Syntactic and semantic features 

The Subject Complement is the obligatory constituent which follows a copular verb and 
which cannot be made subject in a passive clause: 

Who's there? It's me/ It's I. 

She became a tennis champion at a very early age. 

Feel free to ask questions! 

The Subject Complement does not represent a new participant, as an Object does, but 
completes the predicate by adding information about the subject referent. For this 
reason the Subject Complement differs from the Object in that it can be realised not 


only by a nominal group but also by an adjectival group (Adj.G), as illustrated in the 
previous examples. 

The objective case (me) is now in general use (It's me) except in the most formal 
registers, in which the subjective form (it's I) or (/ am he/she) are heard, especially in 

As well as be and seem, a wide range of verbs can be used to link the subject to its 
Complement; these add meanings of transition (become, get, go, grow, turn) and of 
perception (sound, smell, look) among others, and are discussed in modules 12 and 17. 
The constituent following such verbs will be considered Subject Complement if the verb 
can be replaced by be and can't stand alone, without a change of meaning: 

I know it sounds stupid, but ... (= is stupid) cf. *I know it sounds. 
That looks nice. (- is nice) cf. *That looks. 

More problematic is the constituent following other verbs that could be used 
intransitively with the same meaning, as in: 

Saint Etheldreda was born a Saxon princess, (she was born) 
He returned a broken man. (he returned) 
He died young, (he died) 

We shall consider such constituents as Complements on the strength of the possible 
paraphrase containing be (When he returned he was a broken man; When he died he was 

There is, typically, number agreement between the subject and its Complement, and 
gender agreement with a reflexive pronoun at complement, as in Janet isn't herself today. 
There are, however, several common exceptions to number agreement: 

Joan and Lionel make a good couple. 
My neighbour's cats are a nuisance/a joy. 
Are these socks wool? No, they're cotton. 
The twins are the same height. 

Complements of the type a good couple in Joan and Lionel make a good couple are 
explicable on semantic grounds, couple being inherently plural in meaning. Semantic 
criteria may also be invoked to explain the use of a nuisance/ a joy in My neighbour's cats 
are a nuisance/ a joy, since abstractions such as these are equally applicable to singular 
or plural subjects. 

A third type, exemplified by expressions such as wool, cotton, rather an odd colour, the 
same height/ length/ shape, etc., can all be paraphrased by a PP with of (of wool, of rather 
an odd colour, of the same height, etc.), which formerly had greater currency. They all 
express qualities of the subject, and in present-day English the NG form without a 
preposition is the more common. 

Copular verbs predict meanings of being something, describing or identifying the 
subject referent. The Subject Complement completes the predicate by providing infor- 
mation about the subject with regard to its Attributes or its identity. The identifying type 
is typically reversible, the attributive is not: 


The concert was marvellous, (attributive) *Marvellous was the concert. 

The concert was a great success, (attributive) *A great success was the concert. 

The orchestra was the London Philharmonic. (The London Philharmonic was 
(identifying) the orchestra.) 

When be is followed by an expression of location in space or time [in the garden, at 
10 o'clock), this Complement is analysed as locative (see 4.2.1; 9.2). Sometimes a 
circumstantial expression (e.g. out of work) is semantically equivalent to an attributive 
one (e.g. unemployed). 

7.1 .2 Realisations of the Subject Complement 

Attributive subject complements are realised by AdjGs and NGs. Identifying Subject 
Complements can be realised by NGs and by clauses. 

A. Attributive Complements (S-P-Csj - She was ambitious 

AdjG She is twenty-two years old. 

NG Sam is a very lucky man. 

As + NG His research was recognised as a great contribution to science. 

The Rolling Stones' concert was acclaimed as the event of the season. 

8. Identifying Complements (S-P-Cs) - Her name was Bettina 

NG Sierra Leone is one of the world's biggest producers of diamonds. 

Fin. that-c\. Ken's belief is that things can 't get any worse. 

Nominal relative cl. He has become what he always wanted to be. 

Non-fin. bare The only thing I did was tell him to go away. 

Non-fin. to-inf. -S My advice is to withdraw. 

+ for + S The best plan is for you to go by train. 

Non-fin. -ing cl -S What I don't enjoy is standing in queues. 

+S What most people prefer is others doing/for others to do the 

Note that NGs and AdjGs can occur as attributive or identifying Subject Complements, 
in passive clauses derived from S-P-Od-Co structures: 

You are regarded as a friend of the family (We regard you as a friend of the family) 
The gates were left open all night (Someone left the gates open all night) 


Some realisations of Subject Complements are illustrated in the following passage from 
a university magazine, Oxford Today, in which a graduate, Steve Baker, characterises 
the early stages of his career: 

New College, poorest of the rich colleges, dullest of the clever colleges and so far 
down the river that we had to row on the Thames is the place where I grew up. y I 
loved it then and I love it now. But for me real life started in investment banking. It 
was called merchant banking 2 but was just as fashionable then to pretentious young 
squirts as it is now. 3 . The pay on the other hand was something else. 4 Everyone apart 
from me seemed to have a private income. Worse still, they all had private shoots 
and invited the chairman. No shoot, no promotion. No promotion, no pay. No pay, 
no shoot. It was circular 5 and it was vicious. 6 Then there were the social duties. Clients 
tended to be rich, foreign and important. 7 We squirts were the entertainment 6 when 
their offspring hit town. Unfortunately, one of them was, to me, quite beautiful.'' I 
stumbled, flailed around a bit and fell. It was ridiculous,™ I still drove my bubble 
car, she owned the bank that owned the factory. It could not last. It didn't. 

'NG (ident.); 2 NG (attrib); 3 AdjG (attrib.); 4 NG (attrib.); 5 AdjG (attrib); 6 AdiG 
(attrib); 7 AdjG (attrib.); 8 NG (ident.); 'AdjG (attrib.); ,0 AdjG (attrib.) 


7.2.1 Syntactic and semantic features 

The Object Complement is the constituent that completes the predicate when certain 
verbs such as find, make and appoint lead us to specify some characteristic of the Direct 
Object (see also Module 11). The Co is normally placed immediately after the direct 

You (S) are making (P) me (Od) angry (Co). 

You (S) aren't going to like (P) me (Od) angry (Co). 

There is typically number agreement between the Direct Object and the nominal group 
realising the Object Complement, as in: Circumstances (S) have made (P) the brothers (Od) 
enemies (Co). But there are occasional exceptions - expressions of size, shape, colour, 
height, etc. - which are to be explained in the same way as those seen in 7.1.1: 

You haven't made the sleeves the same length. 

The Object Complement can characterise the direct object by a qualitative attribute or 
by a substantive attribute expressing the name or status of the object referent. 


Police found the suspects unwilling to cooperate, (qualitative) 
They have elected Ken captain of the golf club, (substantive) 
The burglars left the house in a mess, (circumstantial) 

Sometimes a Co realised by a prepositional phrase (The burglars left the house in a mess) 
is similar in meaning to an adjectival complement (The burglars left the house untidy). 
We can distinguish its status as Complement from the superficially similar realisation 
by an optional Adjunct (in five minutes in The burglars left the house in five minutes) by 
the intensive relationship linking the Od and its complement. This can be tested by 
paraphrase with be (The house was in a mess; *The house was in five minutes). The two 
meanings are dependent on the related meanings of leave: 'leave something in a state' 
and 'go away from', respectively. 

7.2.2 Realisations of the Object Complement 

Attributive Object Complements can be realised by: 

AdjG A sleeping pill will rapidly make you drowsy. 

NG His friends consider him a genius. 

Finite nominal cl. Dye your hair whatever colour you like. 

Non-finite -en cl. The authorities had the demonstrators placed under house arrest. 

Nominal Co elements are sometimes introduced by the prepositions as or for, and are 
then analysed as 'oblique' Object Complements. That is, the relationship between the 
NG and the verb is not direct, but mediated by a preposition. Some verbs require this; 
with others such as consider it is optional: 

as + NG Party members regard him as the best candidate, 
for + NG Do you take me for a complete idiot? 




1 Adjuncts (A) are optional elements of a situation expressed by a clause. There 
are three main types according to their function. 

2 Circumstantial Adjuncts provide information concerning time, place, manner, 
means etc. These are treated more fully in Module 20. 

3 Stance adjuncts provide an attitudinal comment by the speaker on the content 
of the clause or sentence. There are three classes of stance adjuncts: epistemic, 
evidential and evaluative. 

4 Connective adjuncts are not elements of structures, but connectors of structures. 
They signal how the speaker intends the semantic connections to be made 
between one part of the discourse and another. In discourse studies, many 
connective adjuncts are analysed as discourse markers. 

5 Adjuncts are realised by groups and clauses, according to type and function. 


In contrast with the more central clausal constituents, which are realised only once in 
a clause - there is one subject/direct and indirect object/predicator/subject or object 
complement per clause - it is common to find a number of adjuncts in a single clause. 
The following illustration has five circumstantial adjuncts, which in this clause are all 
optional: they can be omitted without affecting the grammaticality of the clause. The 
bracketed items are adjuncts: 

(If at all possible) I'll see you (tomorrow) (after the show) (with Pete and Susan) 
(outside the main entrance). 

Adjuncts can be added to any of the basic clause structures: 


SP(A) The bells rang all day long. 

SPOd (A) Tom hired a car at Doncaster. 

SPOp(A) You must allow for delays in holiday periods. 

SPOiOd(A) He sends me flowers through Interflora. 

SPCs(A) The weather is rather unpredictable in these parts. 

SPOdCo(A) They elected her Miss Universe in Miami. 

Whereas the more central elements of clause structure typically have fixed places in 
the clause, many adjuncts are characterised by their flexibility as regards position: 

Hastily she hid the letter. 
She hastily hid the letter. 
She hid the letter hastily. 

While the great majority can occur at the end of the clause, they also occur frequently 
in initial and medial positions, these being determined to a great extent by semantic and 
pragmatic considerations (see 55.2). 

Semantically, adjuncts represent circumstances, specifications and comments 
of many different types which are attendant on the verb or the whole clause. A further 
characteristic of adjuncts is the tendency of different types of meanings to be expressed 
by different adjuncts in a single clause, not as coordinated realisations of a single 
adjunctive element, but as separate, multiple adjuncts: 

Surprisingly (stance), she almost (degree) forgot to set the alarm clock last night (time). 


Adjuncts (A) are grouped into three main classes according to their function in the 
clause: circumstantial adjuncts (8.2.1), stance adjuncts (8.2.5) and connective 
adjuncts (8.2.7). 

A fourth group consists of operator-related adjuncts. Certain single adverbs and 
adverbial groups which can function as adjuncts of usuality (usually), frequency 
(sometimes, never), degree (just), modality (probably) and aspectuality (still, yet, 
already), among others, relate closely to the verb. These tend to be placed near the finite 
operator (We have just finished; she is probably waiting). They are discussed in Chapter 
11, together with the distribution, position and function of adverbs. 

8.2.1 Circumstantial Adjuncts 

Circumstantial adjuncts provide experiential details about the action or state described 
by the verb, and answer such questions as where? when? how? why? and occasionally 
what? as in What do you want it for? What did he die of? Of all the types of adjunct, the 
circumstantials are the ones most similar to clause constituents: like subject and object 
they may be made the focus of a cleft. So in the example Tom bought anew car last month, 
we may highlight each element except the verb, including the adjunct of time. Other 
types of circumstantial adjunct don't pass this test, however: 


It was last month that Tom bought a new car. (adjunct) 

It was a new car that Tom bought last month, (object) 

It was Tom who bought a new car last month, (subject) 

*It was probabIy/*usually/*surprisingly/*still that Tom bought a new car last 


8.2.2 Realisations of the Circumstantial Adjunct: Summary 

Circumstantial adjuncts are realised by a wide variety of units: 

She called me yesterday. Adverb 

She called me too late. AdvG 

She called me from the office. PP 

She called me this morning. NG 

She called me while I was out. Finite clause 

She called to tell me the news. Non-fin. 

She called me, using her mobile. Non-fin.-mg cl. 

She called me, scared out of her wits. Non-fin.-en cl. 

Afraid to leave the house, she called me. Verbless clause 

While non-finite -ing, -en and verbless clauses undoubtedly give background information, 
syntactically it is more problematic to analyse them as adjuncts. They are more loosely 
integrated into the clause and can't be made the focus of a cleft (*It was scared out of 
her wits that she called me) as can other circumstantials, including to-infinitive clauses 
(It was to tell me the news that she called me). 

Units that are set off from the main clause by a comma or a pause are called 
supplementives (see also Chapter 10 for various types of supplementive). The -ing 
and -en types, as well as verbless clauses such as afraid to leave the house fall into this 
category. Semantically, they may be understood as reduced clauses of means or reason 
with an adjunctive function. Here, Afraid to leave the house not only lacks a main verb 
and a subject but is related to the predicate. (She was afraid to leave the house.) Such 
'detached predicatives' are used in written genres, where they economically add 
information, typically in initial position as part of Theme (see 28.10 and 51.5). 

8.2.3 Circumstantials functioning as central clause elements 

As explained in 4.1, certain verbs predict a circumstantial element, without which the 
clause is incomplete syntactically and semantically. They then have the status of a 
Complement, and are summarised again here: 

Location in place or time, after a verb of position such as be, stay, live, lie, etc., 
as in: We live in troubled times, The farm is situated in a valley. 
Extent in time or place with verbs such as take, as in The journey takes several 
days, or last, as in The performance lasts (for) three hours, in which the preposition 
is optional. In discourse, the time duration may be omitted if it is understood, as in 
Their love didn't last, meaning 'didn't last a long time'. 


Direction and Goal after verbs of movement such as go, come or of movement + 
manner such as fly, as in We flew south (Direction), We flew to New York (Goal). 
• Source in She tiptoed out of the bedroom, We flew from London. 

Manner with behave, as in, She is behaving rather strangely. Also with one sense of 
the transitive verb treat, as in: They treated the prisoners badly. 

8.2.4 Circumstantials and their ordering in discourse 

There is a strong tendency to add circumstantial information, even when it is not strictly 
required by syntactic or semantic criteria for a single clause, one reason being that it 
is often crucial to the development of the discourse. So, rather than saying Tom dis- 
appeared, we might add an optional circumstantial such as among the crowd, into the 
Underground or below the surface of the lake. 

Even more clearly, the conditional clause adjunct - as in If you don 't learn, you're not 
much good as a teacher - is necessary for a full understanding of the speaker's intended 
meaning. Without it, the message is very different. Conversely, with verbs such as 
leave, arrive and go, Source, Goal and Location adjuncts are omitted if they are con- 
textually understood (haven't they left/ arrived/ gone yetT). The semantic classification 
of circumstantial elements is described in Module 20. 

When a number of circumstantials cluster at the end of a clause, they tend to be 
placed in certain semantic orderings, such as Source-Extent-Path-Goal. This is partly 
illustrated in this slightly adapted sentence from the text below, taken from a report 
entitled 'How to survive a Colombian kidnapping', in The Week. We can see that 'Source' 
does not figure, while 'Purpose' does. 

1 slithered 

a few yards 

down the steep 

to the stream 

for a wash 


direction (Path) 



When I was not playing games with Tom, I started to make up nicknames for our 
guards. One morning I slithered down the steep bank to the stream for a wash, 
accompanied by one of the female guards. I was in desperate need of a shave and 
my washing companion kindly lent me her mirror. I removed the whiskers with my 
final blunt razor and looked up to see if she approved. She was standing there in a 
striking combination of lacy red knickers and bra, offset by Wellington boots, an AK- 
47 and a surly stare. I could make out a large lovebite on her right breast. God! I 
thought, I've landed myself on the set of a Russ Meyer movie: Bras and Guns. As I 
stood there awkwardly, uncertain as to where to look, her boyfriend appeared at the 
top of the bank. He was dressed smartly in an American woodland leaf uniform and 
carried an AK-47. How he kept his uniform so clean and pressed was a mystery. In 
the top of his boot I noticed a pink comb and pink-backed mirror. He pulled them out 
and began to do his hair. From that point on the couple were known as Mr and Mrs 


8.2.5 Stance Adjuncts 

These express the speaker's evaluation or comment on the content of the message, or 
the viewpoint adopted. Syntactically, they often remain somewhat separate from the 
clause, since their message refers to the whole of the clause or sentence. For this reason, 
they are usually found before the clause or after it, as in the first two examples below. 
But they can also be placed parenthetically or between commas, within a clause or 
sentence, as in the last two: 

Naturally, he spoke to me when he saw me. 
He spoke to me when he saw me, naturally. 
He naturally spoke to me when he saw me. 
He spoke to me, naturally, when he saw me. 

Textually, stance adjuncts are of three main kinds: epistemic. evidential and 
evaluative (see also 28.12, as Theme). 

A. Epistemic stance adjuncts - Do you believe me? Of course I do 

These express the speaker's opinion regarding the validity of the content, commenting 
on the certainty, doubt, possibility and obviousness of the proposition: 

Undoubtedly, he is the finest pianist alive today. 
Obviously, he'll rely on you even more now. 

B. Evidential adjuncts - Apparently, the picture is a fake 

These signal the source of knowledge or information. Sources range from the speaker's 
own experience or belief (In my view I In my experience) to the beliefs or accounts of others 
(According to ... In the words of. . . and finally hearsay - supposedly, apparently): 

According to the weather forecast, there's a hurricane on the way. 

C. Evaluative adjuncts - Amazingly, he won a gold medal 

These are attitudinal, reflecting the subjective or objective attitude of the speaker 
towards the content and sometimes also towards the addressee: 

Surely you can make up your own mind! 

Broadly speaking, the Health Service is satisfactory, (objective) 

Unfortunately, our team didn't win. (subjective) 

D. Style and domain adjuncts 

Two further types of stance adjunct are Style and Domain adjuncts. Style adjuncts are 
the speaker's comment on the way s/he is speaking (honestly, frankly, confidentially). 


Domain adjuncts signal from what viewpoint the message is orientated (technologically, 
legally, saleswise, etc.): 

Quite frankly, it seems to me a lot of bullshit. 
Medically, the project has little to recommend it. 

8.2.6 Realisations of the Stance Adjunct: summary 

Stance adjuncts can be realised by adverbs, prepositional phrases, finite and non-finite 

Adverbs: surely, obviously, frankly, honestly, confidentially, hopefully, 

PPs: in fact, in reality, at a rough guess, by any chance, of course 

Non-fin cl: to be honest, to tell the truth, strictly speaking 
Fin. cl: if I may be frank with you . . .; don't take this personally, but . . . 

8.2.7 Connective Adjuncts 

These tell us how the speaker or writer understands the semantic connection between 
two utterances, or parts of an utterance, while indicating the semantic relationship 
holding between them: The hotel was rather noisy. On the other hand, it wasn't expensive 
(contrast). They are not therefore elements of structure, but connectors of structure: 

Between groups: 

Between clauses: 

Between sentences: 

Between paragraphs: 

Lord Shaftesbury was a persuasive speaker and furthermore 

a great pioneer of social reform. 
The students are on strike; nevertheless, the examinations 

will not be cancelled. 
He has been undergoing treatment for asthma since he was 

a boy. Consequently, he never went in for sports. 
In addition to all this . . . 
First of all . . . 
In conclusion . . . 

That is to say, such connectors occur at some boundary established at a significant point 
in the organisation of the text. They have a textual function. 

Semantically, many different types of connection can be expressed. Here, we shall 
briefly exemplify four main types (see also chapters 6 and 7): 

additive: besides, in the same way, what's more, moreover, plus (AmE), as well, 

contrast: instead, on the contrary, on the other hand, nevertheless, rather, yet 
causal: for, because, so, therefore, then, in that case, consequently, thus 

temporal: first, then, next, after that, finally, at once 


8.2.8 Realisations of the Connective Adjunct: summary 

Adverbs: nevertheless, moreover, first, therefore, next, now namely, 

accordingly, consequently, alternatively 

PPs: in other words, by the way, on top of that 

AdjGs: last of all, better still 

AdvGs: more accurately 

Fin. cl: that is to say, what is more to sum up, to cap it all 

In daily life, turns in conversation are often initiated by a common institutionalised 
connective adjunct, such as Well . . ., Now . . ., Oh . . ., So . . ., Right. . ., functioning 
as discourse markers. Their role is double: they mark a new speaker's turn in the 
conversation, and at the same time they mark the management of information, as well 
as the speaker's attitude to the message. Well has a variety of meanings, signalled by 
intonation, ranging from decision to deliberation. Oh is a surprisal, indicating that the 
information received is contrary to expectations, or that the speaker is adjusting to 
the new information or perception. / mean, you see and you know regulate shared and 
unshared knowledge. Look and Hey are attention signals, while yes, yeah, no and nope 
are responses that can occur together with other markers. Here are some examples of 
discourse markers in spoken English: 

Oh my coffee's gone cold! [bnc kcu] 

It was dreadful! That shop. Oh, that's supposed to be a good shop! [bnc kst] 

I've lost my keys! Well, what do you expect? You never put them away. 

The semantic and textual functions of circumstantial, stance and connective adjuncts 
are described and illustrated in chapters 6 and 7, and - as realised by adverbs - in 
Chapter 11. 

Several of these markers, as well as stance and connective adjuncts, occur in the 
following extract from Alan Ayckbourn's play Just Between Ourselves, in which Neil 
comes to Dennis's house to inspect a car for sale. 

Dennis: If s the pilot light, you see. If s in a cross draught. If s very badly sited, that stove. 
They should never have put it there. I'm planning to move it. Right, now. ] You've 
come about the car, haven't you? 

Neil: That's right. 

Dennis: We//, 2 there she is. Have a look for yourself. That's the one. 

Neil: Ah. 

Dennis: Now 3 I'll tell you a little bit about it, shall I? Bit of history. Number one, 4 if s not 
my car. It's the wife's. However, 5 now 6 before you say ah-ah - woman driver, 
she's been very careful with it. Never had a single accident in it, touch wood. 


Well 7 , 1 mean 8 look 9 , you can see hardly a scratch on it. Considering the age 10 . 
To be perfectly honest u , just between ourselves u , she's a better driver than me 
- when she puts her mind to it. / mearf 3 , look u considering it's what now - 
seven - nearly eight years old. ]5 Just look for yourself at that body work. 

Neil: Yes, Yes™. 

'marker/connective; Connective; Connective; Connective; Connective; Connective; 
7 marker; 8 marker, 'attention signal; '"stance; "stance; ,2 marker; ,3 stance; '"attention 
signal; ,5 stance; ''response signal. 


Biber et al. (1999); Fawcett (2000); Greenbaum and Quirk (1990); Halliday (1994); 
Huddleston and Pullum (2002); Quirk et al. (1985); Schiffrin (1987); Thompson (2002); 
Surely as a stance marker: Downing (2001); Downing (2005). 


The skeleton of the message: Introduction to clause structure 

Module 4 

1 tBracket the non-essential constituent(s) in each of the following clauses 

( 1 ) Many of the houses must have disappeared since my father's day, 

(2) I explained briefly to Mrs Davies that there was a power cut. 

(3) It seemed a good idea at the time. 

(4) The war lasted more than forty years. 

(5) I felt my face turn red. 

(6) Somebody snatched my bag in the park. 

(7) Before the fall of the Berlin Wall, spying practically dominated the political life of 
that capital. 

(8) I'll just put something in the microwave. 

(9) The telephone began to ring insistently at six o'clock on a cold November day. 
(10) Arsenal became League champions for the fifth time on Monday. 

Module 5 

1 tCheck the criteria for identifying Subject. Then read the text about Monte Carlo in 5.1 .2 
(p. 45). Which of the criteria for Subject are clearly fulfilled? Which do not occur at all? 
Add some question tags and note the pronominal forms that occur. 


2 tldentify the constituent that realises Subject function in each of the following clauses: 

(1 ) The use of caves for smuggling is as old as the hills. 

(2) There were about half a dozen men seated in the bar. 

(3) The light of a torch flickered. 

(4) What the critics failed to understand is that his art was not sacrificed to popularity. 

(5) The list of people who she says helped her is long. 

(6) It was my great good fortune to meet him before he died. 

(7) Run like mad was what we did. 

(8) It makes sense to tell the neighbours you are going away on holiday. 

(9) It is sometimes argued that there is no real progress. 
(10) Reading in a poor light is bad for your eyes. 

3 tExtrapose the Subject in the following clauses. Start with 'It . . .: 

(1) That Pam is seeking a divorce surprised us. 

(2) To leave without saying goodbye was bad manners, really. 

(3) Who she goes out with doesn't interest me. 

(4) For such a man to succeed in the world of politics requires a lot of nerve. 

(5) That recognising syntactic categories at first sight is not easy is obvious. 

4 Read the passage on the Valley of the Kings in 5.2 (p. 49). Underline the words that realise 
the Predicator function and say which are finite and which non-finite. 

Module 6 

la tldentify the constituent which functions as Direct Object in each of the following clauses, 
and the class of unit which realises this function. 

(1 ) I've lived most of my life in the country. 

(2) He banged the door shut as he went out. 

(3) He pointed out that foreign doctors were not permitted to practise in that country. 

(4) The negotiations have achieved very little. 

(5) She lacks discretion. 

(6) A team of divers have discovered what they believe to be sunken treasure. 

(7) He considers it unlikely that the money will be refunded 

(8) One doubts that many will survive the long trek over the mountains. 

(9) You might ask what is the use of all this. 

(10) He shovelled a ton of gravel into the back garden. 

1 b Discuss these realisations from the point of view of their prototypicality as Od. 

2 Turn to the text 'Fire Threat to Apes' at the end of 6.1 .2 (p. 54), where you will find the 
Subjects and Direct Objects in italics. 

a tldentify them by S and O respectively, and state the type of realisation in each case. 


b. tCommenton the relative length and 'heaviness' of the units. Which are heavier in general 
- those of S or O? What is the subject in 5 ? Is the Subject of 8 a dummy or, if not, what is 
it referring to? 

3 tWhich of the following clauses contain a constituent that functions as Recipient Indirect 
Object, and which contain a Beneficiary Indirect Object? Apply the passivisation and 
prepositional tests to distinguish between the two: 

(1 ) They did not give the leaders time to establish contact. 

(2) Why should I write him his French essays? 

(3) I am going to get myself another coffee. 

(4) Can I get you girls anything? 

(5) He is offering us a chance in a million. 

(6) Can you give me a lift as far as the station? 

(7) You owe me 7 Euros for that pair of tights from the Sock Shop. 

(8) She has bought her boy-friend a butterfly pillow to use on long flights. 

4 t Applying the criteria discussed in 6.4, identify the phrasal verbs, prepositional verbs and 
phrasal-prepositional verbs in the following clauses: 

(1 ) Does it put you off to enter a room and find everyone staring at you? 

(2) They don't approve of what we are doing. 

(3) Is that the time? I'd better get back. 

(4) A burglar could not easily break into this house. 

(5) So he didn't turn up after all at McDonald's? 

(6) His work-mates are always getting at him, he says. 

(7) Things don't always come up to our expectations. 

(8) This is our stop. We get off here. 

5a tSort the following examples according to whether they contain Op or Adjunct: 

a. She ran through the film script, c. You can see through the trees 

b. She ran through the streets. d. You can see through his excuses. 

5b tWhy is *Up large bills she ran ungrammatical while Up the stairs she ran is acceptable? 

5c tShe decided on the bus is ambiguous. Explain the two readings, adding material if 

5d tFor the following sequences provide an ellipted version consisting of verb + adverb: 

He rode out of the courtyard. They jumped over the fence. 
We swam across the lake. Get into the car, all of you! 

6 Read again the passage from Three Men in a Boat in section 6.4.3 (p. 63). Identify the 
italicised sequences. Say whether the verb + adverb combinations are transitive or 
intransitive. Try to find one-word lexical equivalents for these. Do they give the same flavour 
and informality as the phrasal verbs? Discuss possible alternative analyses for 2, 3 and 4. 


Module 7 

1 "("Identify the types of Complement (Subject, Object) in each of the following clauses and 
state the class of unit which realises each of these. 

(1) Acting is not very hard. The most important things are to be able to laugh and to 
cry (Glenda Jackson in The Times). 

(2) They must prove themselves fit for the task. 

(3) Spying on firms has become a multi-million pound industry. 

(4) What will they call the baby? 

(5) Life is a series of accidents. That's what he thinks. 

(6) He made his films accessible to a wide public. 

(7) The weather has turned unexpectedly cold. 

(8) Video-games keep them happy for hours. 

(9) She looked utterly miserable. 

(10) Sweden has made it illegal for parents to smack their children. 

2a "|"The following short text on bike riding illustrates Complements. Underline the part of 
each numbered unit which realises an obligatory Complement and state whether it is Cs, 
Co, Locative/Goal or any other type: 

Cyclists are not only healthy 1 - they are smart. 2 Bike riding is one of the most efficient 
ways of getting about. 3 When comparing the energy expended with speed and 
distance covered, even the rustiest two-wheeler outstrips the hummingbird, the 
cheetah and the jumbo jet. 

There are an estimated 14 million bikes in Britain - with 5 million of them 
gathering dust in garages. A pity, because bicycles are so versatile as transport or 
for simple pleasure. 4 

While getting you to work, 5 a bicyle also gets you fit. 6 For every half an hour's 
pedalling, a 1501b person burns up 300 calories. The heart and back leg muscles 
are strengthened - all while sitting down. Because the bodyweight is supported, 
cycling is effective exercise. 7 

2b Write a paragraph in which you argue against the supposed benefits of cycling. 

Module 8 

1 "("Distinguish between the different types of Adjunct (circumstantial, stance and connectives) 
in the clauses below: 

(1) He was chairman of the English Tourist Board for five years. 

(2) First, we booked the seats, then we went for dinner, and after that we took a taxi 
to the theatre. 

(3) The soldier allegedly crawled under the barbed wire to reach the arms depot. 


(4) Hopefully, student admissions will continue to rise. 

(5) Shaped like a spiral staircase, the 'double helix' of DNA continues to transform 
our understanding of the story of life. 

2 t Analyse the constituents following the verb find in these two clauses: 

(1 ) The police found the gang's hide-out without much difficulty. 

(2) The police found the gang's hide-out more elaborately equipped with technology 
than they had expected. 

3 tin the following extract from Kathleen Mayes' Beat Jet Lag, mark each constituent of the 
clauses with I . Then give (a) the function, and (b) the class of unit which realises the function: 

The sun never sets on the tourist empire. But travel pictures, business contracts and 
sports programmes don't tell the full story: getting there may be no fun at all. Aircraft 
perform flawlessly, but what happens to passengers, flight crews and cabin staff? 
Jet lag. A mass phenomenon, almost as universal as the common cold. 




Complementation of the verb 



Module 9: Intransitive and copular patterns 85 

9.1 Subject - Predicator 85 

9.2 Subject- Predicator - Locative Complement 86 

9.2.1 Pragmatic inference of circumstantial meanings 86 

9.3 Subject - Predicator - Adjunct 87 

9.4 Subject- Predicator - Complement of the Subject 88 

9.4.1 Verbs of being and becoming 88 

9.4.2 Other linking verbs 88 

Module 1 0: Transitive patterns 90 

10.1 Subject - Predicator - Direct Object 90 

10.2 Verbs used transitively and intransitively 91 

1 0.3 Subject - Predicator - Prepositional Object 9 1 

10.4 Subject - Predicator - Indirect Object - Direct Object 92 

1 0.4. 1 Verbs of transfer and intended transfer 92 

10.4.2 Less prototypical three-place verbs 94 

10.5 Subject - Predicator - Direct Object - Prepositional Object 95 

10.6 Frame, perspective and attention 96 

10.7 Subject - Predicator - Direct Object - Object Complement 97 

10.7.1 Current and Resulting Attributes 97 

10.8 Subject - Predicator - Direct Object - Locative Complement 99 

Module 11: Complementation by finite clauses 100 

11.1 Meanings and patterns of ffiaf-clause complements 102 

11.1.1 Verb + f/iaf-clause 1 02 

11.1.2 Dropping or retaining the complementiser that 103 

11.1.3 Verb + NG + t/iaf-clause 1 04 

11.2 Say and tell 105 

11.3 Meanings and patterns of w/i-clause complements 105 

11.3.1 Indirect interrogatives 105 

11.3.2 Nominal relatives 106 

11.3.3 Non-finite variants 106 

11.3.4 Indirect exclamatives 107 

Module 12: Complementation by non-finite clauses 108 

12.1 Catenative complements 108 

12.2 Meanings expressed by to-infinitive clauses 109 

12.2.1 Type 1 : V + to-infinitive 109 

1 2.2.2 Type 2: V + NG + to-infinitive clause with subject 1 1 

1 2.2.3 Type 3: V + NG + to-infinitive 1 1 

1 2.3 Meanings expressed by bare infinitive clauses 1 1 1 

12.3.1 Type 4: V + NG + bare infinitive 1 1 1 

1 2.4 Meanings expressed by -ing clauses 1 1 2 

12.4.1 Type 5: V + -ing clause 112 

12.4.2 Type 6: V + NG + -ing clause 112 

12.4.3 Potential and factual meanings contrasted: to-infinitive and -ing clauses 1 13 

12.5 Past participial clauses 113 

12.5.1 Type 7: V + NG + -en clause 113 

Summary of major verb complementation patterns 1 1 4 

Further reading 1 1 6 

Exercises 1 1 6 



Complementation of the verb refers to the syntactic patterns made up by configurations 
of the clause elements that we examined individually in the previous chapter. Each 
pattern contains a Subject and a Predicator. The number and type of other elements in 
each pattern is determined by the verb, as we saw in Chapter 2. Complementation of 
the verb is a very rich and complex area of English grammar. 

The aim here is to outline as simply as possible the main choices open to speakers 
from the standpoint of the verb. Choices are, however, balanced by requirements. 
Certain verbs in English may not admit a pattern, or a realisation of a pattern, that is 
perfectly normal in another language. 

There are three main types of complementation: intransitive, copular and transitive. 
The transitive has three sub-types. 

Type of complementation 






Ted laughed 



The idea is crazy 




He bought a video 



He gave Jo the video 



1 find the idea crazy 

The number of verbs in common use in English is very large, especially in certain 
constructions, such as the monotransitive. In addition, many verbs - especially those 
of general meaning, such as get, turn and make - admit more than one type of 
complementation, each of which reflects a different type of situation. Make, for instance, 
can enter into all but intransitive patterns: 

I'll make some tea. SPOd 

I'll make you a pizza. SPOiOd 

He made the coffee too strong. SPOdCo 

They make a good couple. SPCs 

It makes for good relations. SPOp 

The potential number of participants, including the subject - that is, the number of 
'places' in the clause that the verb controls - is sometimes referred to as its semantic 
valency. Different classes of verbs have different semantic valencies. The verb eat, for 
example, is a two-place verb: it has a semantic valency of two, because in any event 
of eating there must be an eater and a thing eaten. There are one-place verbs, which 
have a subject only, belonging in principle to the SP pattern. Two-place verbs have a 
subject and one other element, as in the SPC and SPO patterns. Three-place verbs have 
a subject and two other elements as in the SPOO and SPOC patterns. Syntactic valency 


refers to the number of nominal elements present in any given clause that have a direct 
grammatical relation to the verb. In The lions ate away at their prey, there is one nominal 
element, as their prey does not have a direct grammatical relation to the verb. Syntactic 
valency often corresponds to its semantic valency, but not always. Weather verbs such 
as rain and snow, for instance, have no semantic participant and so have a semantic 
valency of zero. As finite clauses in English require a subject, however, dummy z'ris used 
with such verbs, giving a syntactic valency of 1 . Valency is reduced when one or more 
elements are omitted in use. For instance, eat has a semantic valency of 2 as in He ate 
an orange; the valency is reduced to 1 in What time do you eat here? 





1 Where there is no complementation the verb is said to be intransitive. The 
structure is S-P. Some verbs are always intransitive [arrive, snow, blink, vanish). 
Others represent intransitive uses of basically transitive verbs [eat, drive, read]. 

2 Some intransitive verbs, particularly those of position [live, lie) or movement 
[go, walk), usually require a Locative or Goal Complement, respectively. 

3 Locative Adjuncts are commonly present but not necessarily required after many 
verbs such as work, arrive, retire and stop. Locative and other circumstantial 
information is often pragmatically inferred in discourse. 

4 The S-P-Cs pattern contains a copular verb that links the subject to a Complement 
encoding what the subject is or becomes. The most typical copula is be. Other 
verbs used as copulas in English provide additional meaning to the mere linking. 
This may be sensory [look, feel, smell, sound, taste) or refer to a process of 
becoming [become, get, go, grow, turn). The notion of 'being' also includes 
being in a place, expressed by a circumstantial locative Complement, as we 
saw in 8.2.3. 


This pattern contains a one-place verb such as sneeze, which has a subject but no 
complement. We distinguish the following types of intransitive verb: 

verbs of behaviour which is typically involuntary or semi-voluntary: laugh, smile, 

cry, blink, blush, cough, sneeze, sigh, tremble, yawn; wait, stay; die, collapse, faint, fall, 

(They all laughed, someone yawned, one soldier fainted.) 

verbs of weather: rain, snow (It's raining. It's snowing. The sun rose.) 

verbs of occurrence: appear, disappear, go, come, arrive, depart, vanish, fade, 



Has everyone arrived! 

Hopes of avoiding war are now fading. 

idiomatic intransitive phrasal verbs such as crop up as in a problem has cropped 
up, where there is no verb 'crop' of the same meaning (see 6.4.2). By contrast, with 
free combinations of verb + particle used literally as in the bird flew away, the particle 
is analysed as a directional Complement (6.4.2 and 9.2). Opinions differ in this 
respect, however, some preferring Adjunct in the case of free combinations. 

Note that some of these 'pure intransitives' can also function in other structures, as we 
shall see later on. 


Other intransitives of the following types typically require a Complement of place, 
direction or destination to complete their meaning. Location in space is extended 
to include location in time (see also 10.8 for certain transitive verbs with similar 

Location in place or time: be, stand, live, lie, remain 
Movement + manner of movement: walk, run, stroll, crawl, fly 

The National Theatre stands near the river. 

The amusement park is just over there 

She is lying in a hammock. 

Lunch was at one o'clock. 

We walked home. 

The soldier crawled under the wire fence. 

We can compare this verb lie, meaning to be in a prone position, with lie, a 'pure' 
intransitive, meaning to tell lies: He is lying in a hammock vs He is lying. 

We can also contrast uses of the same verb, such as run, which can occur either as 
a pure intransitive in the answer to How does Tom keep fit? - He runs, or with a Goal 
Complement in He runs to the bus-stop every morning (see 8.2.3). 

Note that, for brevity, the term C loc is used to encompass both Locative and Goal 

9.2.1 Pragmatic inference of circumstantial meanings 

Similarly, other verbs of position, such as wait and stay, and verbs of movement such 
as go, leave, come and walk can either function as pure intransitives or be followed by a 
Locative/Goal Complement. The choice depends to a great extent on whether there is 
sufficient support from the context to sustain the intransitive. For example, if a contrast 
is being made - as in Do you want to leave or would you rather stay? - the intransitive verb 
alone is sufficient, because the location is pragmatically inferred as being the place where 


the addressee is. Similarly, in You can either take the bus or walk, the destination is 
obviously known from the context, and a suitable reply would be 'I'll walk'. 

However, if the location or destination are not inferrable, a locative or Goal 
Complement becomes necessary as in We went home. Without the specification 'home', 
the verb would carry insufficient semantic 'weight' and informativeness to complete the 

Complements are more tightly integrated than Adjuncts, the tightest being the Subject 
and Object complements following copular verbs (see 9.4; 10.7). 


With other verbs such as work, arrive, retire, stop a circumstantial Adjunct is commonly 
added, but it is not a requirement because the verb has sufficient weight in itself. 
This maybe for cultural reasons, for example, work being interpreted as 'have a job' (lb 
below), retire as 'retire from employment' (3b), or because of the aspectual mean- 
ings conferred by the perfect (3b, 4b) and progressive (2b) aspects, which lend 'weight' 
to the verb (see 43.3). Compare: 

S-P-A S-P 

la Tom works in London. lb Does his sister Priscilla work? 

2a We arrived late. 2b The guests are arriving. 

3a He retired last year. 3b He has retired. 

4a We stopped at the Equator. 4b The clock has stopped. 

The following extract from a war correspondent's records illustrates similar choices: 

Real travelling, of course, is done the hard way. Planes merely get you to the general 
area; 1 to penetrate to the difficult places 2 you have to go by four-wheel drive or by 
horse or by boat. Or you can walk, 3 

It is the expeditions that stand out 4 most in the memory: being driven 5 across the 
North African desert by bedouin who relied on the sky and the look of the sand 
dunes rather than instruments, and who arrived 6 at precisely the right place at 
precisely the time they had promised; or heading 7 out from Yekaterinburg, the former 
Sverdlovsk, to visit Boris Yeltsin's home village of Butka, on a morning so cold that 
the road was a slick ribbon of ice and the driver had to peer 8 through the strip of 
clarity two inches thick on the windscreen; or leaving the Ugandan capital Kampala 
to drive'' into Rwanda, stopping™ at the Equator to take photographs of ourselves, 
and shredding three tyres along the way; or hiring a marvellously colourful bus which 
drove us to the nastiest and most frightening of the Peruvian drugs towns in relative 
safety, because it never occurred to the drug dealers or their allies, the military, that 
we would arrive u in this fashion. 

(John Simpson, it's a Mad World, My Masters) (see exercise, p. 117). 



Copular verbs link the subject with a complement which characterises or identifies the 
subject referent: 

A couch potato (S) is (P) someone who lies watching television all day (Cs). 
This new game (S) is (P) incredibly simple and endlessly gripping (Cs). 

The most prototypical copular verb is be, which can be followed by a wide range of 
adjectives and NGs. Others, such as remain, keep, taste, smell, sound, fall, feel, come, grow 
and turn, are followed by a more limited range of adjectives which are often specific to 
a particular verb, as illustrated below. 

9.4.1 Verbs of being and becoming 

Verbs of being are stative and introduce current or existing attributes: 

The reason is simple. 

Lloyd George was a man of principle but he was also intensely pragmatic. 

We have to remain optimistic about the future. 

Will you keep still! 

Verbs of becoming are dynamic and introduce resulting attributes. In addition, grow 
suggests gradual change, while go is used to indicate drastic changes: 

Her latest novel has become a best-seller. 

We began to grow uneasy when the skin-diver didn't appear. 

His face went white. 

An adjective functioning as Cs may have its own fo-infinitive clause complement (we 
are anxious to hear from you; glad to hear the good news). The various meanings expressed 
by such complements are explained in 53.1.2. Here are some typical combinations of 
verb + adjective, current and resulting: 

Current Resulting 

be careful become dangerous 

seem annoyed get stressed 

look cheerful turn nasty 

sound familiar prove unsatisfactory 

smell spicy go wild 

9.4.2 Other linking verbs 

A small number of verbs that are normally used without a complement (fall, come, run) 
can function as copulas with specific adjectives as Cs: 


The child fell flat on its face. 
The soldiers all/e// asleep/ fell ill. 
The label has come unstuck. 

As be predicts not only being something but being somewhere, it can also link the subject 
to a circumstance, usually of position, place or time. The Complement is then identified 
as C, , as described in 4.2 and 9.2. 


The following extract from an interview in the Sunday Times Magazine gives an idea 
of how the verb and its complements contribute to the expression of interpersonal 
relations in a text. The young person interviewed is Kirsty Ackland, the daughter of an 
actor. The structures she chooses help to express the meanings she wants to convey. 
When she describes herself or another person she uses copular complementation. When 
she describes the interaction between herself and her actor father, or between herself 
and her school-friends, she uses ditransitive complementation. 

Until / was about 1 3, 1 when / became terribly shy, 2 1 was absolutely desperate to be 
an actress. 3 My sister Sammy and / would beg Dad to 4 let us go to drama school 5 
but there was no way he would allow it 6 until we'd been educated. I went to Putney 
High School. 7 I was the only one in the family 3 who didn't get a scholarship. 9 Dad 
turned up 10 for parents' evenings and things like that but he never helped^^ with the 
homework. I used to help him. u I loved hearing his lines. u But I never told anyone u 
I was the daughter of an actor. ys Most of the fathers of the girls at school were 
'something in the City' and I pretended Dad was an interior decorator^ 6 

'copular (state); Popular (becoming); 3 copular (slate); "ditransitive + Od + let + 
inf .clause; 5 ditransitive vb + Od +clause; 6 monotransitive + situation; 'intransitive + 
C| ot ; 8 copular, state, identifying; 'monotransitive + thing; '"intransitive; "transitive 
(Od unexpressed); ,2 monotransitive + Od; ,3 monotransitive + situation; ,4 ditransi- 
tive; ,5 copular (state); ,6 object (fhafj-clause of fact 




1 Monotransitive patterns contain a two place verb [carry, say) and have one 
Object. The Object is a Direct Object or a Prepositional Object. Objects, like 
Subjects, most typically represent an entity (a person or thing), less typically a 
fact or a situation within the main situation. Entities are typically realised by 
group structures, facts and situations by clauses. We will postpone the discussion 
of clausal realisations to Module 1 1 . 

2 Ditransitive patterns contain a three-place verb (give, offer, rob, blame). 
Semantically, they express situations in which three participants are involved, 
encoded syntactically as the subject and the two objects. There are two main 

3 One pattern contains a verb such as give, send, owe, which takes two Objects, 
Indirect and Direct, sequenced in that order (give Jo a copy), each of which 
can potentially become subject in a passive clause. 

4 The second pattern, with verbs such as remind and rob, takes a Direct Object 
followed by a Prepositional Object whose preposition is controlled by the verb 
(It reminds me of Italy). Only the Direct Object can become subject in a passive 

5 The complex-transitive pattern has one Object and one Complement, after 
verbs such as appoint, name and find. 


Verbs which take a direct object are very numerous and of different semantic types 
(carry the luggage, know the answer, feel the heat of the flames, enjoy the film, want a 
copy). The semantic types are described in Chapter 4. 


I (S) ate (P) a toasted cheese sandwich (Od) [for lunch today A] 

She was wearing one of her father's extra-large T-shirts. 

They don't watch kids' TV programmes. 

We must put away all this stuff. 


Many verbs in English are used both transitively and intransitively with the same 
meaning. They include several types: 

1 Verbs with an implied Object, such as smoke (cigarettes), drive (a car), park (a car), 
drink (alcohol), save (money), wave (one 's hand), as in Do you smoke? He doesn 't drive. 
Such intransitive uses can be considered as instances of valency reduction, that is 
the normal valency of two of these verbs is reduced to one. As these reductions are 
based on cultural schemas and tend to have an implication of habituality, they are 
not extended to other object referents such as wave a flag, drink milk. With certain 
verbs such as read, write, eat and teach the deleted direct object is not specific, and 
is perhaps unknown, as in He teaches and she writes. 

Drinking and driving don't match. 

It is impossible to park in the city centre. 

They are saving to buy a house. 

He waved to us from the bridge. 

2 Causatives with an intransitive counterpart, constituting an ergative pair 

(see Chapter 4): 

He opened the door. (SPOd) The door opened. (SP) 
The camera clicked. She clicked the camera. 

3 Verbs with a reflexive meaning: 

He shaved (himself), She dressed (herself). 

4 Verbs with a reciprocal meaning: 

Tom and Jo met at a concert, (met each other) 


Verbs which take a Prepositional Object are: prepositional verbs such as see + to, 
deal + with (see to the plane tickets, deal with an emergency), phrasal prepositional verbs 


such as run out of {run out of petrol), and multi-word combinations that end in a 
preposition, such as get rid of {get rid of old newspapers). The criteria for distinguishing 
these verbs from phrasal verbs are discussed in Chapter 2. 

Here is a short list of some common verbs followed by a preposition. Certain verbs, 
such as think and hear, control more than one preposition with a slight difference of 


verbs that 

can be followed by a 





































The Prime Minister (S) can't account (P) for the loss of votes(Op). 
We're banking on everyone's support for the rally. 
He would never resort to cheating. 
What are you hinting at? 


There are two main types of ditransitive complementation: the basic type, in which an 
Indirect Object is followed by a Direct Object, illustrated here, and another, in which a 
Direct Object is followed by a prepositional Object. The first is discussed now, the 
second in 10.5. 

10.4.1 Verbs of transfer [give, lend) and intended transfer 
(buy, get) 

Types: I gave her a present I got her a present 

This is the basic ditransitive pattern. Three-place verbs like give have a subject and two 
Objects, representing the transfer of goods or information from one person to another. 
They also include speech act verbs such as 'offer' and 'promise'. Here are some more 
verbs like give: 

hand lend offer owe pass promise read send show teach throw write 

He showed the policeman his driving licence. (He showed his driving licence to the 


We are offering our clients a unique opportunity. ( ... to our clients) 
She owes several people large sums of money. ( ... to several people) 

As the examples show, the indirect Object has a prepositional counterpart, the give 
type with to, the get type with for (I gave a present to her. I got/ bought a present for her). 
The PP functions as a prepositional object. 

Verbs of intended transfer carry out a service for someone, or even a disservice, as 
in They set him a trap/ They set a trap for him. Other verbs like get and buy include the 

book bring build buy cash cut fetch find leave spare keep make pour 

Book me a sleeper on the night train. ( . . . a sleeper for me) 

Will you call me a taxi, please? (. . . a taxi for me) 

He got us a very good discount. (. . . a good discount for us) 

With the 'give' type, two passives are usually possible: 

Active: I gave Jo a copy. 

Passive 1: Jo was given a copy. (Oi in active clause — > S in passive clause) 

Passive 2: A copy was given to Jo. (Od in active clause — > S in passive clause) 

?A copy was given Jo. (? Indicates divided acceptability) 

The 'first passive' brings the Recipient participant to subject (Jo). The 'second passive' 
brings the thing given to subject, followed by the Recipient as prepositional object 
(to Jo). The non-prepositional form A copy was given Jo, is considered ungrammatical 
by many speakers, but is accepted by others. Two orderings whose equivalents are 
acceptable in certain languages but which are ungrammatical in English are the 
following: *To Jo was given a copy and *To Jo it was given a copy. 

The difference between the two valid passive forms is a question of information 
packaging (see 29.1). They are useful alternatives when the active subject is not known 
or is not important in the discourse, as can be seen in the following extract from an 
article in Time magazine under the heading 'Education: doing bad and feeling good': 

A standardized math test was given to 13-year-olds in six countries last year. 
Koreans did the best, Americans did the worst, coming in behind Spain, Britain, 
Ireland and Canada. Now the bad news. Besides being shown triangles and 
equations, the kids were shown the statement 'I am good at mathematics'. Koreans 
came last in this category. Only 23% answered yes. Americans were No. 1 , with an 
impressive 68% in agreement. 


American students may nor know their math, but they have evidently absorbed 
the lessons of the newly fashionable self-esteem curriculum wherein kids are taught 
to feel good about themselves . . . Judging by the international math test, . . . kids 
already feel exceedingly good about doing bad. 

Note that certain ditransitive verbs such as send are often used with a directional 
meaning encoded as Goal Complement (C loc ): They sent their children to boarding-school. 
There is no non-prepositional counterpart of a Goal Complement as there is with send 
+ Oi + Od: Compare: They sent me a postcard with *They sent boarding-school their children. 
The latter is ungrammatical. 

1 0.4.2 Less prototypical three-place verbs 

There is a good deal of variation in ditransitive verbs. Not all verbs display the alternative 
structures of those listed in 10.4.1. Here are just a few of the most common variants: 

Type: explain + NG + Prepositional Object He explained the problem 
to us 

Typical verbs are: announce, confess, deliver, mention, return and say. There is no 
corresponding structure with the Oi in its usual place: *He explained us the problem. That 
is, these verbs take only the oblique, that is, prepositional object as a second object. 

What did she say to you? 

I never mentioned your name to anyone. 

Type: wish + NG + NG We wish you luck 

Other verbs: allow, cost, wish, refuse and 'light' uses of give (see 20.2). 

These verbs have no prepositional counterpart with to. Note that the starred counter- 
parts on the right are ungrammatical. Ask something of someone is sometimes possible, 

They allow everyone a ten-minute break. *They allow a ten-minute break to 

He gave the door a push. *He gave a push to the door. 

Let's ask someone the way. *Let's ask the way to someone. 

Many three-place verbs allow valency reduction from 3 to 2 when there is contextual 
support, as in He called a taxi, he got a discount, they blamed me, let's ask the way. 




Although predicted by the verb, the Op in this ditransitive pattern (e.g. It reminds me of 
you) is further away from the verb and less object-like than when the Prepositional 
Object is the only object in a clause. The NG {you) can't be made subject in a passive 
clause. However, like other Objects, it encodes a participant that can be questioned by 
who 1, what 2 placed either before the preposition or, more usually, stranded (see 6.3.3). 
It can also occur in a wA-cleft 3: 

1 Who does it remind you of? (Of whom does it remind you?) 

2 What are you thanking me for? (For what are you thanking me?) 

3 What it reminds me of is Italy. 

In discourse, this element may be omitted when its referent is understood, as in They 
blamed me (for something already mentioned). The Direct Object is usually a person and 
the Op may be an entity or an event. 

Some of the verbs taking this construction are listed here according to preposition. 
Remember that a NG is placed between the verb and the preposition. 

Some verbs taking Prepositional Object as well as Direct Object 






blame prevent accuse 





thank protect convince 









S P 



This sunblock will protect 



from the sun 's rays. 

They robbed 


of her watch and jewels. 

They charged 


with assault. 

I congratulated 


on her 


Only the direct object constituent can become subject in the passive clause: 

Your skin will be protected from the sun's rays. 
She was robbed of her watch and jewels. 
He was charged with assault. 
Janet was congratulated on her success. 

Blame, a three-place verb, admits two alternative constructions with different 
prepositions, which reflect the way the event is viewed in each case. The more central 


of the two participants is placed first, as Od. In one version this is Jane; in the other the 

blame someone (Od) for something (Op) He blamed Jane for the accident 
blame something (Od) on someone (Op) He blamed the accident on Jane. 

There are thus two passives - Jane was blamed for the accident, The accident was blamed 
on Jane - which centre respectively on 'Jane' and on 'the accident'. 

Likewise, the NG following the preposition can be questioned by who or what (What 
was Jane blamed for? Who was the accident blamed on?). 

Other verbs that present a similar variation are supply, load and drain: 

We supply the school with paper (Op). We supply paper(Od) to the school (Op) 
They loaded the cart with hay. They loaded hay on to the cart. (C loc ) 

They drained the pool of water. They drained water from the pool. (C loc ) 

With load and drain the cognitive representation is rather different with each alternative. 
With the receptacle the cart and the pool as object, there is a notion of totality: the cart 
is completely full of hay, the pool completely drained of water. By contrast, with hay 
and water as object, there is an impression of partialness: some hay is loaded, some 
water is drained. If the definite article is used (the hay, the water), the implication is of 


The cognitive notion of frame allows us to conceptualise a situation from different 
perspectives. For instance, Fillmore's 'commercial event' frame for [BUY] includes a 
reference to four other variables, namely to a BUYER, a SELLER, GOODS and MONEY. 
A syntactic pattern formulated from the perspective of the BUYER could be as follows: 

Tom bought some old CDs from Phil for twenty euros. 

In this sentence all four variables of the BUY frame are encoded linguistically, each filling 
a different syntactic function: the BUYER (Tom) as subject, the GOODS (the CDs) as 
direct object, the SELLER (Phil) as the first adjunct and the MONEY (for twenty euros) 
as the second adjunct. This distribution of syntactic functions is the syntactic perspective, 
which here is largely controlled by the choice of the verb BUY. 

Within the same frame, it would be easy to take a different perspective by choosing 
another related verb such as SELL, CHARGE or PAY. The verb sell perspectivises 
SELLER and GOODS as subject and object, charge also perspectivises the SELLER as 
subject but the BUYER as object, and pay perspectivises the BUYER and MONEY, with 
the SELLER as optional indirect object. 

Phil sold some old CDs to Tom for twenty euros. 

Phil charged Tom twenty euros for some of his old CDs. 

Tom paid Phil twenty euros for some old CDs. 


The notion of perspective draws on the cognitive ability to direct one's attention. 
To a large degree, we conceptualise events in different ways according to what attracts 
our attention. As language users, we use the verb buy when describing a commercial 
event in order to draw attention to the BUYER and the GOODS, functioning as subject 
and object respectively. We use the verb sell to focus attention on the SELLER and the 
GOODS. By means of the frame we can even call up cognitive categories that had 
no prominence and were not expressed (though they were implied) in the frame itself, 
for instance SPEND and COST. These can be externalised in sentences such as the 

Tom spent twenty euros on some old CDs 
The old CDs cost Tom twenty euros. 

For complementation by clauses see modules 1 1 and 12. 



1 Three-place verbs with one Object and one Complement of the Object are called 
complex transitive. The Direct Object typically represents a person or thing, and 
the Object Complement adds information about this referent in the form of an 
attribute: / found the house empty, He got his shoes v/et. 

2 The attribute is either current (as with find) or resulting (as with get). 

3 The participant encoded as direct object can typically be made subject in a 
corresponding passive clause. 

10.7.1 Current and Resulting Attributes - He got his shoes wet 

This three-place pattern is essentially an S-P-Od pattern with an attributive Object 
Complement added. As attribute the complement specifies the state or status of the Od 
referent in relation to the situation described by the verb. The attribute may be 'current', 
contemporaneous with the verb (He keeps the garden beautiful), or the result of the action 
denoted by the verb (They elected her Vice-President). 

Verbs that take a current attribute after the object are stative, and include: 

verbs of causing to remain in a certain state such as hold and keep 
verbs such as believe, consider, think, find, imagine, presume, hold 


verbs such as want, like and prefer 

Keep your hands steady\ 

I imagined him much older. 

Do you want the roast chicken hot or coldl 

Verbs that take resulting attributes represent processes of doing, and include bake, drive 
(mad), get, leave, make, paint, turn, wipe as well as verbs of declaring, such as appoint, 
elect, call, name, declare, report and certify, which confer an official status. 

With AdjG Complement: 

It wipes the windscreen dry. 
That barking dog is driving me mad. 
The heat has turned the milk sour. 
Get your priorities right] 
They presumed her dead. 

With NG Complement: 

They elected her Vice-President. 
They appointed him Manager. 

The direct object referent in complex transitive structures can be made subject in a 
passive clause, which then has a S-P-Cs structure. In fact, with some verbs the passive 
is more common than the active, particularly when the Agent is unexpressed, as in she 
was presumed dead; he is reported missing: he was certified insane. 

With some verbs, the attribute is not essential to make a grammatical clause (It wipes 
the windscreen). This is because many verbs enter into more than one structure: wipe 
can function in a monotransitive structure (wipe the windscreen) or in a complex transitive 
structure (wipe the windscreen dry). Other examples which, without the complement, 
also fit the monotransitive structure include You 've cut your hair (short); we got the books 

A further type of attribute is that of respect. This is expressed by as + NG when 
introduced by such verbs as regard, refer to, write off, acclaim: 

Churchill referred to him as an outstanding leader. 

Fans acclaimed the Rolling Stones' concert as the event of the season. 

As a consequence of the multi-functionality of many verbs, examples can be invented 
in which one type of unit such as a NG can realise two different types of constituent: 

He called her an angel. S-P-Od-Co 

He called her a taxi. S-P-Oi-Od 

I'll make you First Secretary. S-P-Od-Co 

I'll make you an omelette. S-P-Oi-Od 



Verbs such as put, place, stand, lead occur with a Locative/Goal Complement: 

I put the dish in the microwave. 
Stand the lamp near the desk. 
The track led us to a farm. 

Many other verbs such as talk, take, bring and show can be used in this way, while keep 
and hold can function with both Attributes and in Locative/Goal patterns. 

I didn't want to go, but she talked me into it. (C loc ) 

Keep your hands on the wheel! (C loc ) Keep your hands steady! (Co) 

Hold your head up! (C loc ) We hold you responsible. (Co) 





1 All clausal complements are determined by the verb. Many verbs admit more 
than one type of complementation. 

2 Ffiaf-clauses form the largest group of finite clause complements and are 
controlled by transitive verbs. They are classed according to communicative 
function and meanings, which include facts, perceptions, reports and proposals. 

3 W/i-clause complements are of three types: a) indirect w/i-interrogatives, b) wh- 
nominal clauses and c) indirect exclamatives. They occur after verbs such as 
a) ask, inquire b) advise, show, teach, fell, and c) say, tell, believe respectively. 

4 Clausal complements can be considered non-prototypical realisations of 
clause constituents. In these sections, however, we concentrate mainly on the 

We saw in Chapter 2 that most elements of clause structure can be realised by 
a subordinate clause functioning as Subject, or Object, or as Complement of either the 
Subject or the Object. Such clauses are then said to be embedded, as in: The doctor 
knows that you are waiting. 

The whole clause (the doctor knows that you are waiting) in which the subordinate 
clause is embedded is called the superordinate clause, while the doctor knows is the 
matrix clause. The embedded clause, introduced by a complementiser (subordinator), 
functions as a non-prototypical direct object. 

The complementiser that has little semantic value and functions as introducer of an 
embedded clause. By contrast, a wh-word has meaning and functions as a constituent 
of the embedded clause, as in The doctor knows what you need. 

The main verb is said to determine or control the dependent clause. Adjectives and 
nouns can also control clausal complements, as in We are glad (that) you came after all 
(here in a SPCs structure) and He has the conviction that he is a great actor (SPOd) 
respectively, and these will be discussed in the relevant chapters. Here, the clauses will 









Direct Object 

VG wh- nominal clause 

The doctor knows what you 

Main clause and embedded nominal wfi-clause 

Direct Object Subject Predicator 


be discussed as realising Object and Complement functions (Cs and Co). Clauses 
fulfilling subject function were described in 5.1.2. 

The four main types of dependent complement clause are: fAaf-clauses, w/i-clauses, 
to-infinitive clauses and -ing clauses. They are distinguished by their complementiser 
(subordinator) such as that or a w/z-word, and by their own structure. They are shown 
here complementing monotransitive verbs. 

Clause as complement with monotransitive verbs 

finite that-clause: 

He believes that he's right. 

finite wh-clause: 

He asked what 1 meant. 

He believed what 1 told him. 

1 said how nice it was. 

non-finite to-infinitive clause: 

without subject 

He wants to stay. 

with subject 

He wants us all to stay. 

non-finite -ing clause: 

without dep. cl. subject 

He doesn't like driving in fog 

with dep. cl. subject 

He doesn't like her driving in fog 


Jftaf-clauses and w/;-clauses are finite, having a subject and tense-modality features, 
while fo-infinitive and -ing clauses are non-finite, and lack these distinctions. All of these 
types can be used to complement verbs and adjectives. Less versatile are the 'bare' 
infinitive (He helped me carry the bags) and the -en participle clause, which occurs in the 
complex-transitive structure (I heard two shots fired). Non-finite complementation is 
discussed in Module 12. 


A rtcrt-clause complement can be used to express factual or non-factual information 
which is reported, known, believed or perceived; it can be used to make proposals and 
suggestions and to describe situations that produce an emotive effect on the subject. 
The choice of verb combines with the meaning to determine the structural pattern. 

11.1.1 Verb + fhar-clause - I think it's beautiful 

Facts, beliefs, doubts, perceptions - I believe you are right 

These meanings are expressed by a that-c\ause containing an indicative. This represents 
an indirect statement and follows verbs of certain types: 

Verbs of cognition - knowing, doubting, perceiving - such as think, know, believe, 
imagine, see, doubt; with doubt, don't know, the subordinator is if or whether. 

We know that you have lived abroad for some time. 

He could see that she was not at all happy. 

I doubt/I don't know if/whether we'll get there before dark. 

Verbs of expectation - expect, hope, suppose and wish - which refer to potential 
situations rather than facts, frequently take a modal auxiliary in the indicative that- 

I expect (that) you would like something to drink after your journey . 
I suppose (that) he must have lost his way. 

For omission of complementiser that, see 11.2. 

Reports -Jo says she is ill 

Reports encode things that people have said. They are introduced by verbs of 
communicating, such as say, announce, answer, explain, mean, mention, report, and 
performatives such as admit and confess. Reports are treated in Chapter 7 under 'indirect 

The Minister answered that he didn't know. 
You never mentioned that you were married. 


Many of these verbs (but not answer) can take an optional prepositional object with to. 
This makes them appear ditransitive; however, an indirect object can't be added in its 
usual place after the verb, as occurs in ditransitive clauses. Such verbs are therefore 
neither typical monotransitive nor typical ditransitive verbs: 

Let me explain the situation (to you). *Let me explain you the situation. 
You never mentioned (to me) that *You never mentioned me that you 
you were married. were married. 

In the systemic-functional approach, verbs such as think and say are said to 'project' a 
dependent, but not embedded, clause as a locution or as an idea, respectively. Locutions 
and ideas do not linguistically express the cognitive representation of reality as do 
verbs of seeing or doing, for example. Rather, they express 'a representation of a 

Proposals - The party suggests he call/should call an election 

Verbs such as propose, suggest, recommend and demand aim at getting someone to 
do something. The meaning in the complement clause is therefore potential, for 
which many European languages require a subjunctive. English has traditionally two 
possibilities: an uninflected subjunctive (e.g. be), common in AmE, or should + infinitive, 
common in BrE. Both are illustrated in 1 and 2. The same choices are open before an 
it + adj construction. Illustrated here is a formal use: 

It is right that this House debate this issue and pass judgement. (PM Tony Blair in the 
House of Commons, 18 March 2003) 

A third choice, adopted by some speakers, is the indicative, as illustrated in a news 
report 3: 

1 He demands that she pay/ should pay him back. 

2 The chairman proposed that a vote be taken/ should be taken. 

3 They demand that he apologises to the Iraqi people. 

(For complementation by to-infinitive clause, see 12.2.) 

1 1 . 1 .2 Dropping or retaining the complementiser that 

We can drop or retain the complementiser (or subordinator) that without affecting the 
meaning of the clause. However, certain factors appear to favour one choice or the 

Omission of that is favoured by the following factors: 

(a) when think or say is the main verb - I think it's nice, Tim says it's easy 

(b) when the subject refers to the same entity in the main clause and in the that-c\ause, 
as in Tim promised he'd do it 


(c) when there is a pronoun rather than a noun head in the that-clause (I think I'll have 
a cola, She knew he would do it) 

It has also been suggested that / think and / know, for example, are not main clauses 
at all, but are better analysed as epistemic, evidential or evaluative parentheticals, 
while what is traditionally classed as the complement clause in fact carries the main 
proposition. This view is based on two pieces of evidence: the verb + its subject can be 
placed parenthetically after the clause - I'll have a cola, I think; He'll do it, I know - and 
the tag-question relates to the complement clause, not to the main clause - 1 think she'll 
have a cola, won 't she? (not *don 't IT). 

Retaining that after a verb is favoured by: 

(d) coordinated rtaf-clauses: Many people believe that big is best and that war is right. 

(e) passive voice in the main clause: It is believed that peace is in sight. 

(f) a NG or PP (or clause containing a NG) placed between the main clause and the 
that-clause: Can you prove to the commission that the effects are not harmful? 

Overall, that is omitted most in informal spoken registers, which is where the 'abc' 
factors tend to cluster, while the subordinator is retained most in formal written registers, 
which are characterised by the 'def factors. These are not strict divisions, however, 
as even formal registers nowadays are often a mix of the formal and the less formal. 
The following short extracts from The Peacemakers and Girls Out Late, respectively, 
illustrate the tendencies: 

People have often assumed that, because Lloyd George opposed the Boer War, he 
was not an imperialist. 1 On the contrary, he had always taken great pride in the 
empire but he had never thought it was being run properly. 2 

She said she thought he was a stupid little creep. 3 (see exercise 2 on p. 118) 

r/rat-clauses do not follow prepositions in English and consequently cannot realise 
the Op function. Instead, one of three solutions is adopted: a) the preposition (e.g. on) 
is omitted; b) the preposition is retained and is followed by anticipatory it, or c) the fact 
can be inserted before a that-clause with a factual meaning: 

a. He insists that we all go. 

b. He insists on it that we all go. 

c. You must allow for the fact that they are handicapped. 

1 1.1.3 Verb + NG + ffiaf-clause - I told you I'd be late 

Many verbs of communicating (tell, inform), verbs of causing someone to think or believe 
or know something (convince, persuade, remind, teach), and the performative verbs promise 
and warn, can take a that-clause after the direct object: 


He finally convinced the jury that he was telling the truth. 
Experience has taught them that a back-up copy is essential. 


Note that say and te//have different complementation patterns: 

Say is monotransitive, controlling a direct object (Say that number again; He said he 

was sorry), while tell is ditransitive, with two objects (Tell me your name, tell me you 

love me). 

Say can take an added oblique object ( What did you say to him?), but not an indirect 

object (* What did you say him?). 

Quoted speech may realise the object of say, but not that of tell (Jill said 'Hello ', but 

not *Jill told me 'Hello). 

See also 36.5. 

Recursive embedding is when a series of clauses is embedded, each within the 
previous one: / reminded him he'd said he'd find out about the flight schedules. Here, the 
that-cletuse direct object of remind, which comprises the remainder of the sentence, (he'd 
said he'd find out about the flight schedules) contains a further embedded that-clause he'd 
find out, which has a PP (about the flight schedules) as complement. 


Wh-cleaise complements are usually either embedded interrogative clauses or 
nominal relative clauses. The first express doubt or lack of knowledge, while the 
second contain factual information. A third type, with a to-infinitive complement, is a 
non-finite variant of types 1 and 2. A fourth type, the indirect exclamative, is similar 
to the ordinary exclamative and has an intervening NG after verbs such as tell, but not 
after say. 

There are two main patterns, which are controlled by specific verbs. Pattern 1 has 
simply a w/2-complement. Pattern 2 has an intervening NG (a Recipient). Certain verbs 
such as ask can function in both patterns. A third type, with a to-infinitive complement, 
is a variant on types 1 and 2 and is very common, especially in spoken English. 

1 1 .3.1 Indirect interrogatives 

V + w/i-clause - Ask where the station is 

The verbs ask, wonder, doubt, enquire, don't know control indirect interrogatives. The 
subordinator if is often used as an alternative to whether in indirect questions where the 
answer is either yes or no: 


We asked what we should do/ what to do. 

The tourist enquired why the museum was closed. 

Pat wondered whether/if her friends would recognise her. 

As indirect interrogatives contain an embedded question, it is important to remember 
that subject-operator inversion does not normally occur in embedded questions, unlike 
the obligatory inversion found in most independent interrogatives. Compare: 

independent interrogative dependent interrogative 

Where is the dining-car? Let's enquire where the dining-car is. 

Not *Let's enquire where is the dining-car. 

1 1 .3.2 Nominal relatives 

V + NG + wh-clauses - Give them what they want 

These verbs - common ones include advise, give, show, teach and tell - can control 
nominal relative clause complements, which represent factual information and can be 
distinguished by replacing the wh-word by a more general word, such as 'the thing(s)/ 
person(s) that', and in some cases by a non-finite complement clause: 

He told me what I already knew, (the things which I already knew) 

Tom will show you where you can send it/ the place where you can send it/ where to 

send it. 
The instructor taught the dancers how they should breathe/the way they should 

breathe/tow to breathe. 

As these examples illustrate, some verbs can convey a similar meaning by a non-finite 

1 1 .3.3 Non-finite variants 

V + NG + wh + fo-infinitive clause - Ask (him) how to do it 

This combination provides a shorter variant of 1 1 . 3 . 1 and 11.3.2, with verbs such as ask, 
know, show, tell, teach and wonder. The NG recipient is obligatory with tell, show and 
teach, optional with ask, and not used at all with know and wonder. 

We didn't know where to go. (indirect interrogative) 
Tom told us what to do. (nominal relative) 

Ambiguity can sometimes occur with w/2-complements, as in He asked me what I knew, 
which can be analysed as an indirect interrogative (compare with the direct form What 
do you know?) or as a nominal relative (the things I knew) - the latter, for example, in the 
context of reporting on an examination. 


T 1 .3.4 Indirect exclamatives 

V + (NG) + what + NG or how + AdjG - I said how nice it was 

The embedded exclamative is introduced by either how (+ adjective) or what (+ NG) 
after two types of verbs: verbs of communicating such as say and tell, and mental verbs 
such as believe and think. Like ordinary exclamatives, it has an emotive quality (see 24. 1): 

You'll never believe what a good time we had. 
I told her how sorry I was. 





1 Non-finite clauses are more loosely integrated into the superordinate clause 
than are finite clauses. Only the to-infinitive complements of certain verbs such 
as want, like and prefer and the -ing complements of like, hate among others, 
can be treated as (non-prototypical) object constituents. 

2 A series of non-finite clauses can be analysed as a chain-like structure of 
embedded non-finite complements. 

3 To-infinitive clauses tend to evoke potential situations, whereas -ing clauses are 
factual and bare infinitive clauses evoke an event in which the end-point is 

4 Participial -en clauses function as Object Complements after four types of 


A catenative verb is a verb that controls a non-finite complement. 'Catenative' means 
'chaining' and reflects the way that the verb can link recursively with other catenatives 
to form a chain, as in: 

We decided to try to rent a house near the sea. 

Here there is a chain of three verbs: decide, try and rent, with to try to rent a house near 
the sea functioning as the catenative complement of decide, and to rent a house near the 
sea functioning as the catenative complement of try. 

We can add further catenative verbs to produce an even longer chain of four 
catenatives, two of which, persuade and help, have a NG object. The final verb rent is not 
a catenative: 


We decided to try to persuade Bill to help us rent a house near the sea. 

i decide to try to persuade Bill to help us rent a house near the sea. 

ii try to persuade Bill to help us rent a house near the sea. 

iii persuade Bill to help us rent a house near the sea. 

iv help us rent a house near the sea. 

Further catenatives appear in the following section. A special type of catenative 
construction - as in He failed to appear-is discussed in 39.4. Not all catenatives behave 
in the same way. Only the complements of a few catenatives such as want, like and prefer 
can be analysed as (untypical) objects. Others cannot (see also 6.1.2E). 


1 2.2. 1 Type 1 : V + fo-inf initive - I want to go 

These three groups of verbs take to-infinitive clause complements: 

(a) Want, wish, intend, arrange 

(b) like, love, prefer, can 't bear, hate 

(c) promise, agree, learn, forget, decide 

The to-infinitive clause in Type 1 has no explicit subject, the implied subject being that 
of the main clause. Semantically this is clear. If I want to go, the going is to be done by 
me. For the (c) group of speech-act verbs, there is an equivalent that-clause complement 
with the same meaning, but this alternative is not available to the (a) and (b) groups of 
desiderative and affective verbs: 

1 The boss wants to see us immediately, (no rtcrf-clause counterpart in 1, 2 and 3) 

2 I have arranged to go to London tomorrow. 

3 I would have preferred to invent something which helps people. A lawnmower, for 
example. (Mikhail Kalashnikov, inventor of the AK47 assault rifle, in The Times) 

4 I promise to ring you later, (compare: I promise that I will ring you later) 

5 They agreed to wait a bit longer, (compare: they agreed that they would wait a bit 

To-infinitive clauses tend to evoke a situation that is potential. Cognitively, the infinitive 
reflects an event, with to symbolically reflecting the movement towards the event. For 
this reason the controlling verb typically 'looks forward' to the moment when the event 


1 2.2.2 Type 2: V + NG + to-infinitive clause with subject 
- He wants us to go 

The 'want' verbs include: want, like, love, prefer, can't bear, dislike, hate, wish, arrange. 

The people want the troops to leave. 

And her mother did not like her to be out for too long. (bnc gob 1660) 

I only want us to be together. (gwh 1 130) 
I have arranged for the students to go to London tomorrow. 

The 'want' type verbs of la and lb in the previous section can also take a to-infinitive 
clause that has an explicit subject. Semantically, what the people want, what her mother 
did not like are situations, not persons or things. For this reason, the non-finite clause, 
together with its subject, is analysed as a single unit which can be considered an 
untypical direct object. This can be tested by (a) replacement by a pronoun (Her mother 
did not like that), (b) coordination (and she herself did not like it either), and (c) clefting: 
the non-finite clause and its subject can become the focus of a wh-cleft (What her mother 
did not like was for her to be out too long). 

Furthermore, although these subjects of to-infinitive clauses are in the objective case 
(us, her) they can't be analysed as objects of the main verb. The complete clause does 
not entail The people want the troops or Her mother did not like her. Nor can they become 
subject in a passive clause: * The troops were wanted to go, * She was not liked to be out too 
long. In this respect, verbs like want contrast with those of Type 3 (in the next section) 
such as ask, advise and expect, in which the NG does represent a separate clause element. 

Note the use of for as a subordinator, introducing the non-finite clause with its subject 
(for the students to go to London tomorrow) after the main verb arrange. In AmE this use 
of for is extended to other verbs such as want and prefer. 

Finally, we can test want-type verbs with a What question: What do you want? rather 
than a Who question: Who do you want? The object of my wanting is (for) us to be 

1 2.2.3 Type 3: V + NG + to-infinitive 

- We asked the taxi-driver to stop 

The verbs in this type are speech-act verbs: advise, allow, ask, beg, expect, invite, tell, 
persuade, urge. The NG is both the object of the main verb and the implicit subject 
of the embedded to-infinitive clause. This NG behaves as if it were the object of the 
finite verb and can become subject in a passive clause. This divisibility of the NG is an 
important feature of ditransitive and most complex transitive complements. As with 
other verbs of this type, passives are common. 

They persuaded us to stay. We were persuaded to stay. 

A television campaign is advising Teenagers are being advised to keep off 

teenagers to keep off drugs. drugs. 

Semantically, we persuade, advise and invite someone, not a whole situation. 
Consequently, a test question will be with Who (Who did they persuade?). The to- 
infinitive expresses the course of action to be taken. 


For these reasons, the NG referent following verbs like advise or ask must be human, 
or at least animate. This is not the case with verbs like want. Compare: 

The Browns want their house to be painted. 

*They advised/persuaded their house to be painted. 

Note that, when a to-infinitive clause is ellipted (see 29.5), to remains (They invited us to 
stay and we agreed to). 

Factual verbs such as believe, consider, know, report, suppose also take NG + to-infinitive 
as a 'raised object' alternative to a rtert-clause complement (see also 37.4). Passive forms 
are common in formal styles: 

People consider that he is a great actor. 
People consider him to be a great actor. 
He is considered (to be) a great actor. 


1 2.3. 1 Type 4: V + NG + bare infinitive - We let them go 

Typical verbs are: let, have, make; see, hear, feel; help. 

Bare-infinitive clauses evoke an event in which an end-point is included, as in we 
let them go, we saw them go. Relatively few verbs occur in this pattern. They include three 
verbs of coercion, illustrated below, a few verbs of perception and the verb help. 

Don't let anxiety spoil your life. 

They made the prisoners stand for hours. 

I'll have my secretary make you a reservation. 

Syntactically, we analyse the non-finite clause of the make type as an object complement, 
complementing the direct object. Notice the parallel between: She made them angry/ 
She made them sit down. 

Analysis of the NG + bare-infinitive complement of perceptual verbs illustrated 
below is more problematic. Is the NG the object of the matrix clause or the subject of 
the non-finite clause? Does the NG + bare infinitive refer to a whole situation, as with 

I saw someone enter the shop late at night. 
She felt something hard hit her on the head. 

While the 'whole situation' view appears to be semantically acceptable, 'I saw someone 
enter the shop' entails 'I saw someone', this entailment not being the case with the want 
type. Syntactically, the NG is the object of the matrix clause and is also the subject of 
the bare-infinitive clause. 

Some of the clauses of coercion and perception (but not with causative have, or 
with/ee/) can be passivised, with the NG as subject and the bare infinitive replaced by 


a to-infinitive, as in: The prisoners were made to stand for hours, Someone was seen to 
enter the shop. Let is usually replaced by allow {They were allowed to go). In this respect 
we find the same divisibility of the NG as occurs with the 'ask' type. 

It is notoriously difficult to pin down the difference in meaning between help + bare 
infinitive and help + to-infinitive. One analysis sees the bare infinitive as direct or active 
involvement in bringing about the action expressed by the infinitive, as in: I'll help you 
carry your luggage upstairs. With help + to, by contrast, the event is seen to be the con- 
sequence of the helping, and often means 'contribute to' rather than active involvement 
by the helper, as in Acupuncture can help people to give up smoking. 


12.4.1 Type 5: V + -ing clause - I like listening to music 

This type of clause uses the verbs: like, love, avoid, dislike, hate, enjoy, miss, resent, risk, 
can't, help. 

Non-finite -ing clauses as complements tend to express factual meanings. Syntactically 
they function as non-prototypical direct objects, following the criteria adopted for 
analysing to-infinitive clauses as objects in 12.2, Type 2. 

They disliked living in a big city. 
I avoid travelling in the rush hour. 

1 2.4.2 Type 6: V + NG + -ing clause - I saw them waiting 

See, hear, feel, smell, find, leave, catch, discover, come across, keep 

The subject of the -ing clause is also the object of the superordinate clause. It can 
become subject in a passive clause. 

They caught him stealing from the till. He was caught stealing from the till. 
She found the child sleeping peacefully. The child was found sleeping peacefully. 

With verbs of perception we can often make a distinction between a completed action, 
expressed by the bare infinitive, and an uncompleted action or action in progress, 
expressed by an -ing clause. Compare: We watched the house bum down and We watched 
the house burning. 

Note that verbs of starting, stopping and continuing among others, when followed by 
either to-infinitive or -ing clauses, are analysed in this book not as lexical verbs followed 
by a complement, but as 'phased' or concatenated verbal groups that express aspectual 
meanings such as ingressive, egressive and continuative (see 39.2), as in He started 
smoking at the age of fifteen. 

Verbs of retrospection such as regret, remember and forget (but not recall, which 
takes only -ing) mark a difference of time reference in relation to the main verb. With a 
to-infinitive clause, the action expressed is seen as following the mental process of 


remembering or forgetting, whereas an -ing form marks the action as previous to the 
mental process: 

I remembered to turn off the gas. (I remembered that I had to turn off the gas 

and I did.) 
I remembered turning off the gas. (I remembered that I had turned off the gas.) 

I forgot to turn off the gas. (I forgot that I had to turn off the gas and 

didn't turn it off.) 
I regret telling/having told you the (I am sorry that I told you the bad news.) 

bad news. 
I regret to tell you there is some bad (I am sorry to have to tell you bad news.) 

Regret + to-infinitive is always followed by a verb of communication - say, tell, announce, 
inform - used with present time reference. Both the regretting and the telling occur at 
the moment of speaking, whereas regret + -ing has no such limitation (She regretted 
going out without an umbrella). 

1 2.4.3 Potential and factual meanings contrasted: to-infinitive 
and -ing clauses 

Because the to-infinitive looks forward to the event, it tends to be used when a specific 
occasion is referred to, often of a future or hypothetical kind, as in / would like to go to 
Paris. An -ing clause, by contrast, expressing factual meanings, as in / like going to Paris, 
entails that I have been to Paris, whereas I would like to go to Paris does not. 

Emotive verbs such as like, love, hate and prefer (but not enjoy, detest and dislike, which 
admit only -ing clauses) can establish this distinction clearly. 

I like listening to music. I'd like to buy a good stereo. 

Most people hate standing in queues. Most car-owners would hate to be without 

For many speakers, however, the to-infinitive is a valid alternative in the expression of 
factual meanings, especially with a notion of habit: I like to cook for my friends. 


12.5.1 Type 7: V + NG + -en clause - We'll get it mended 

These are S-P-Od-Co structures with a past participal complement. They are controlled 
by four types of verb: 

the causative verbs get and have - We'll have some repairs done to the house, 
volitional verbs: want, like, prefer - The boss wants these records updated; 


verbs of perception: see, hear, feel - I felt my arm grasped from behind; and 
verbs of finding and leaving - Airport officials have found an unidentified 

bag abandoned in the coffee-shop. 

Some of the variety of two-complement patterns is illustrated in this extract from the 
National Enquirer. 

Sniffing food for about 30 seconds before you eat it can help you lose weigh? says 
an expert in weight loss. 

'You're in fact tricking the brain into thinking 2 that you've already eaten, explains 
Dr. Alan Hirsch, 'so you don't eat as much.' 

In a study, Dr. Hirsch had 20 people sniff their food 3 before eating it - and the 
results were amazing. 'We found that they each lost between 1 and 12 pounds over 
a three-month period.' 

So if you have an urge for a candy bar, hold it up to your nose 4 for 30 seconds, 
then put it away. 5 Usually you'll be able to resist the urge to eat it! 

'help + Od + infinitive clause (potential action); 2 irick + Od + prep. + -ing clause 
(metaphorical Goal); 3 causative have + Od + infinitive clause (action); A hold + Od + 
two Loc/Goal Complements; 5 put+ Od + Loc/Goal Comp. 


1 No complement patterns with intransitive verbs 

V only ('pure' intransitive) The post has arrived. 

V + implied object That dog bites. 

V (reciprocal meaning) They met at a party. 

V + obligatory locative She lives in Tokyo. 

2 One-complement patterns with copular verbs 

V + AdjG The game is very simple. 

V + NG This road is the M40. 

3 One-complement patterns with monotransitive verbs 

V+ NG That dog bit me. 

V + prep + NG I'll see to the sandwiches. 

Finite clause 

V + finite that-c\ame He believes that he is right. 

V + finite w/i-clause 


(indirect interrog.) 
(nominal relative) 
(indirect exclamative) 

Non-finite clause 

V + non-finite to-infinitive clause 
With implicit subject 

With explicit subject 

V + non-finite -ing clause 
With implicit subject 
With explicit subject 

She asked what I meant. 
He believed what I told him. 
I said how sorry I was. 

He wants to stay. 

He wants us all to stay. 

They like staying out late. 

She doesn't like them staying out late. 

4 Two-complement patterns with ditransitive verbs 

V + NG NG 

V + NG + prep + NG 

Finite clause 

V + NG + fta-clause 

V + NG + w/i-interrog. clause 

V + NG + nominal wh clause 

Non-finite clause 

V + NG + to-inf clause 

I gave Jo a copy. 

We reminded her of the time. 

He assured her that he cared. 

She asked me where the library was. 

He told me what I needed to know. 

She told us to sit down. 

5 Two-complement patterns with complex-transitive verbs 

V + NG + AdjG 

V + NG + NG 

V + NG + as + NG 

V + NG + obligatory locative 

Non-finite clause 

V + NG + to-infinitive clause 

V + NG + bare inf clause 

V + NG + bare infinitive 

V + NG + -ing clause 

V + NG + -en clause 

I found it useful. 

They consider him a genius. 

They denounced the bill as unconstitutional. 

Put the dish in the microwave. 

They believe him to be a genius. 
He made them stand up. 
She saw two men enter the shop. 
He kept us waiting. 
I heard two shots fired. 


Complementation patterns are illustrated in this summary of a well-known radio serial, 
published in The Week: 

The Archers: what happened last week 

Alistair asks David if he will join him in The Three Peaks Challenge 1 [climbing Ben 
Nevis, Scafell and Snowdon in 24 hours], Oliver asks Caroline to marry him. 2 
[Caroline says no], but suggests they live together at Grange Farm. 3 Oliver is 
delighted. Dross is in trouble now that both Fallon and Ash have left. Kenton teases 
David and Alistair about the mountain challenge 4 and suggests the Ambridge Three 
Peaks instead. 5 They jump at the idea. 6 [Tom's love life is a source of gossip.] Most 
people think he is going out with Fallon to get at Kirsty. 7 Matt Crawford tells David 
he's found another bit of land. 8 [Kenton is being driven mad living with his parents] 
and asks David, Kathy and even Elizabeth if he can stay with them. 9 [They all say 
no.] Jill tells Kenton that Daphne's Cafe is going to need a manager 10 and suggests 
he has a word with Jack. 11 Kenton begs Jack to give him the job of managing the 
cafe. 12 


Biber et al. (1999); Duffley (1992); Greenbaum and Quirk (1990); Huddleston and Pullum 
(2002); Levin (1993); Quirk et al. (1985); Thompson (2002); Ungerer and Schmid (1997); 
on the infinitive: Duffley (1992); on frames: Fillmore (1982); on valency: Payne (1977); 
on rtaf-clauses: Thompson (2002). 


The development of the message: Complementation of the verb 

Module 9 

1 tWith the help of a monolingual dictionary, say whether the verbs in the examples below 
are (a) exclusively intransitive or (b) can be used either transitively or intransitively: 

(1 ) Women today are achieving in many professions which were previously open only 
to men. 

(2) The two planes collided in mid-flight. 

(3) He has exhibited in all the major art galleries over the last five years. 

(4) You must be joking! 

(5) Most of our students baby-sit two or three evenings a week. 

(6) Pete doesn't adapt easily to new situations. 

(7) My brother-in-law ghost-writes for at least two politicians. 


(8) The little bird quivered in my hands. 

(9) He thinks he can take me in, but I know when he's bluffing. 

(10) Those couples who have no children of their own are often eager to adopt. 

2 |Of the verbs which could be used transitively in exercise 1 , which ones can be considered 
to have an Object unexpressed (a) by social convention, (b) with reflexive meaning, (c) 
with reciprocal meaning? 

3 tSuggest the underlying semantic valency of the verb pay. 

4 Turn to the text by John Simpson in 9.3 (p. 87). Underline those expressions in the text that 
you consider to be loc/manner/goal Complements. Discuss why they appear to be 
obligatory; hasn't the verb sufficient semantic weight without them? Discuss those cases in 
which an Adjunct is not present because it is inferrable from the context. 

Module TO 

1 t(a) Choose the most appropriate prepositional verb from the list in 1 0.3 to fill the gap in 
each of the sentences below. Then (b) put each sentence into the passive: 

(1) You can't .... Cecil, he has such fixed ideas. 

(2) It is not easy to ... . old broken furniture. 

(3) They will .... the Minister of Defence to explain the charges of negligence. 

(4) The target they are .... is too high. 

(5) You should .... your schedule if you hope to deliver the goods on the agreed 

2 Explain the semantic difference between 'She wrote a letter to her brother' and 'she wrote 
a letter for her brother'. 

3 With the help of a good dictionary, work out the complementation patterns, and the 
meanings of leave. Give examples. 

Module 1 1 

1 tCombine the following pairs of clauses so that the first clause can be analysed as an 
embedded constituent of the superordinate clause. Add or omit whatever is necessary. The 
first is done for you: 

(1) He has lived abroad for several years. I gather that from what he says. 
From what he says, I gather (that) he has lived abroad for several years. 

(2) Have we enough petrol to reach Barcelona? I doubt it. 

(3) Is there an emergency kit in the building? Who knows? 

(4) Where is the nearest Metro station? I asked. 

(5) You keep the keys. We have all agreed on that. 


(6) Some of the documents are missing. The Under-Secretary can't account for it. 

(7) Why doesn't he look in the safe? I suggest that. 

(8) We have just heard that. The spokesman confirmed it. 

(9) He has been under great strain lately. We must allow for that. 
(10) These letters must be posted today. Will you see to it please? 

2 tRead again section 1 1 .1 .2 on dropping or keeping the fhaf- complementiser. Identify 
which factors make for the retention or omission of the subordinator that in each fhaf-clause 
in the examples that follow the explanation on p. 104. 

3 tGive a reason for the omission or retention of that before the embedded clauses in: 

(a) In a friendly way Wilson had also suggested that Koo travel to France on the same 
boat as the Americans. [The Peacemakers) 

(b) I said I thought she was still crazy about him. [Girls Out Late) 

4 t Analyse the following in terms of recursive embedding: 

He says he's really sorry he said he'd take someone else to the dance. 

5 tSay which of the italicised clauses in the examples below are nominal relative clauses, 
which are indirect interrogative clauses and which are embedded exclamatives: 

(1 ) He asked where I had been all afternoon. 

(2) The spokesman announced whaf we had all been hoping to hear. 

(3) You've no idea how cold it was in Granada at Easter. 

(4) They don't know wfio sprayed the graffiti on the Faculty walls. 

(5) I said what a pity it was they couldn't be with us. 

(6) He's sure to fall in with whatever you suggest. 

6 tExplain why the following constructions are ungrammatical: 

(a) * They suggested to start at 8.00. 

(b) *She explained me the difference between the two constructions. 

Module 1 2 

1 Answer the following questions using to-infinitive clauses or -ing clauses to express situations 
within the main situation - at least to start off with! 

(1 ) What do you particularly dislike doing on Monday mornings? 

(2) Is there anything you regret not doing? 

(3) If people go off on holiday without locking up the house, what do they risk? 

(4) What things do you feel you can't afford? 

(5) What kind of thing would you absolutely refuse to do? 

(6) Is there any kind of situation that you miss when you are away from home? 


2 Analyse the following catenative chain: 

They want to try to get all their neighbours to refuse to sign the petition. 

Now try to construct a catenative chain using a series of fo-infinitive clauses beginning as 
follows: I hope to . . . 

3 Answer the questions below and note the complementation patterns you use: 

(1) What kind of thing would you find it impossible to promise someone to do? 

(2) Would you rather owe someone money or a favour, or have money or a favour 
owed to you? 

(3) What would you advise an overweight friend to eat? 

(4) How would you encourage an oversensitive person to react? 

(5) How would you help someone to be assertive without being aggressive? 

(6) What would you recommend a bored housewife to do? 

4 tWrite out the complementation pattern of each of the following. The first is done for you: 

(1) He never allowed Thomas to drive the jeep in his absence, 
v + NG + fo-inf. 

(2) The shopkeeper asked me what I wanted. 

(3) His powerful imagination makes him quite different from the others. 

(4) Keep your shoulders straight. 

(5) He left her sitting on the bridge. 

(6) They like their next-door neighbours to come in for a drink occasionally. 

(7) I would prefer Mike to drive you to the station. 

5 Read again 'The Archers: what happened last week' (p. 116). Underline the main verb 
and write out the complementation pattern it determines in each numbered clause. Ignore 
the clauses in brackets. For example, sentence (i) is as follows: V+NG+ wh-cl [if = whether). 

6 If you are giving an opinion in English about a person, a place, a thing, an event, etc., 
from a rather subjective point of view, you will find yourself using monotransitive structures 
with fnaf-clause complements (/ think she is rather silly), complex transitive complementation 
[Oh, I found her good fun) and copular complementation (He seems rather too full of 
himself). Discuss among a group of friends a person, place or event known to you all. 
Tape your conversation (try to forget you are being recorded!) and then analyse what you 
have said. Note the constructions you have not used. 

7 With the help of a good dictionary, work out the various complementation patterns that 
the following verbs can control: prefer and drive. 




Processes, participants, circumstances 

Module 1 3: Conceptualising experiences expressed as 

situation types 1 22 

13.1 Processes, participants, circumstances 122 

13.1.1 The process 123 

13.1 .2 The participant roles (semantic functions) involved 

in the situation 124 

13.1.3 The circumstantial roles associated with the process 124 

13.2 Types of process 125 

13.3 Inherent participants and actualised participants 125 

Module 1 4: Material processes of doing and happening 1 28 

1 4. 1 Agent and Affected in voluntary processes of 'doing' 1 28 

14.2 Force 130 

1 4.3 Affected subject of involuntary processes of 'happening' 1 30 

Module 1 5: Causative processes 1 32 

15.1 Causative material processes and ergative pairs 132 

15.2 Analytical causatives with a resulting Attribute 134 

15.3 Pseudo-intransitives 135 

Module 16: Processes of transfer 137 

16.1 Recipient and Beneficiary in processes of transfer 137 

1 6.2 Summary of material process types 138 

Module 1 7: Conceptualising what we think, perceive 

and feel 139 

17.1 Mental processes 139 

17.2 Cognitive processes: knowing, thinking and believing 141 

17.3 Perception processes: seeing, hearing and feeling 142 

17.4 Affective and desiderative processes: liking and wanting 142 

17.4.1 Affective processes: loving and hating 142 

17.4.2 Desiderative processes: wanting and wishing 143 

Module 18: Relational processes of being and becoming 144 

18.1 Types of being 144 

18.2 The Attributive pattern 145 

18.3 Circumstantial relational processes 146 

18.4 Possessive relational processes 146 

18.5 The Identifying pattern 148 

Module 19: Processes of saying, behaving and existing 151 

19.1 Verbal processes 151 

19.2 Behavioural processes 152 

19.3 Existential processes 153 

Module 20: Expressing attendant circumstances 1 55 

20.1 Place, time and other circumstances 155 

20.2 Range 158 

Module 21: Conceptualising experiences from a different 

angle: Nominalisation and grammatical metaphor 160 

21.1 Basic realisations and metaphorical realisations 160 

21.2 Nominalisation as a feature of grammatical metaphor 162 

21.2.1 Process realised as entity 1 63 

21 .2.2 Attribute realised as entity 164 

21.2.3 Circumstance as entity 164 

21.2.4 Dependent situation as entity 164 

21.3 High and low transitivity 165 

21.4 Summary of processes, participants and circumstances 166 

Further reading 167 

Exercises 1 67 




1 Semantically, a clause represents a pattern of experience, conceptualised as a 
situation type. 

2 Situation types comprise three main types: material, mental and relational. There 
are also three subsidiary types: behavioural, verbal and existential. 

3 Each situation type consists of the following: 

• The process: the central part of the situation, realised by a verb. Process 
types include those of doing, happening, experiencing, being and existing. 

• Participant roles: these symbolically represent the persons, things and abstract 
entities involved in the process. 

• Attributes: the elements which characterise, identify or locate the participant. 

• Circumstances: those of time, place, manner, condition, etc. attendant on 
the situation. 

4 The type of process determines the nature and number of the participants. 
Certain inherent participants can remain unactualised when understood in the 

5 The valency of the verb specifies the number of inherent participants of 
any process, and by reduction indicates the result of unactualising one or 
more participants. This type of analysis runs parallel to the traditional 
transitive-intransitive analysis. 


In this chapter we look at the clause as a grammatical means of encoding patterns of 
experience. A fundamental property of language is that it enables us to conceptualise 
and describe our experience, whether of the actions and events, people and things of 


the external world, or of the internal world of our thoughts, feelings and perceptions. 
This is done through transitivity, contemplated in a broad sense, which encompasses 
not only the verb but the semantic configuration of situation types. 

The clause is, here too then, the most significant grammatical unit. It is the unit 
that enables us to organise the wealth of our experience, both semantically and syntac- 
tically, into a manageable number of representational patterns or schemas. Our personal 
'construals' of each individual situation are then selected from these patterns. In describ- 
ing an event, for instance, we might say that it just happened, or that it was caused 
by someone's deliberate intervention, or that it is unusual, or that we feel sad about 
it, among other possible construals. In this chapter we will be talking about patterns of 
'doing', 'happening', 'experiencing' and 'being' as the main types, together with a small 
number of subsidiary types. 

As language-users, we are interested in events and especially in the human 
participants involved and the qualities we ascribe to them, what they do, say and feel, 
their possessions and the circumstances in which the event takes place. The semantic 
schema for a situation, therefore, consists potentially of the following components: 

the process (a technical term for the action (e.g. hit, run), state (e.g. have) or change 

of state (e.g. melt, freeze) involved. 

the participant(s) involved in the process (basically, who or what is doing what to 


the attributes ascribed to participants; and 

the circumstances attendant on the process, in terms of time, place, manner, and 

so on. 

13.1.1 The process 

There is no satisfactory general term to cover that central part of a situation, the part 
which is typically realised by the verb and which can be an action, a state, a meteoro- 
logical phenomenon, a process of sensing, saying or simply existing. Following Halliday, 
we here use the term 'process' for all these types. We can also analyse them as dynamic 
processes and stative processes. 

Dynamic and stative processes 

Dynamic situations and processes involve something that occurs or happens; they can 
be tested for by means of the question 'What happened?' Stative situations and 
processes are conceived of as durative over time, and as existing rather than happening, 
so it doesn't make sense to ask 'What happened?' in such cases. Generally, dynamic 
processes easily occur in the progressive (Pete is going away) and the imperative (Go 
away, Pete\), whereas most stative processes don't usually accept the progressive or the 
imperative (*Pete is seeming kind. *Hear a noise!). See also 43.5. 


13.1.2 The participant roles (semantic functions) involved 
in the situation 

In classifying situations into schemas, we filter out the wealth of detail that we find in 
our personal experiences, to focus on the salient participant(s) that belong to different 
types of situation. These are usually just one or two, at the most three. When one of the 
participants is human, it is typically assigned the primary role (Agent/Subject) in 
the semantic and syntactic constructions. This is a consequence of our anthropocentric 
orientation in conceptualising events. 

While human participants occupy a prime place among the semantic roles, the term 
'participant' does not refer exclusively to persons or animals, but includes things and 
abstractions. A participant can be the one who carries out the action or the one who is 
affected by it; it can be the one who experiences something by seeing or feeling; it 
can be a person or thing that simply exists. The terminology used to identfy participant 
roles may be less familiar to you than the corresponding syntactic terms. As we go on, 
you will find that labels are useful in semantics, just as in syntax, in order to talk about 
concepts. We will try to keep them as simple and transparent as possible. 

The Attributes ascribed to entities either identify or characterise the entity, 
or state its location in space or time. They are realised syntactically by the intensive 
Complements (Complement of the Subject and Complement of the Object). 

13.1.3 The circumstantial roles associated with the process 

These include the well-known circumstances of time, place, manner and condition, 
as well as a few others. They are typically optional in the semantic structure, just as 
their adjunctive counterparts are in the syntactic structure. Circumstances can, however, 
be inherent to the situation: for instance, location is obligatory with certain senses 
of 'be', as in the ice-cream's over there, and with 'put' in its sense of 'placing' as in let's 
put it in the freezer (see 4.2.1; 10.8). 



a new shirt 

in Oxford Street 







At the present time 

the state of the 







We have now outlined the framework that will serve to carry the different con- 
figurations of semantic functions that go to make up semantic structures. It is not the 
case, however, that any particular configuration is inherently given in nature. There are 
various ways of conceptualising a situation, according to our needs of the moment and 
what the lexico-grammatical resources of a language permit. 

For instance, on the day planned for a river picnic we may look out of the window 
and say it's cloudy, specifying simply a state (is) and an Attribute (cloudy); alternatively, 


that the sky is cloudy, adding a participant (the sky) for the Attribute. More ominously, 
someone might say the clouds are gathering, in which the situation is represented as a 
dynamic happening rather than as a state, with a participant (clouds) and a dynamic 
process (are gathering), leaving implicit the circumstance of place (in the sky). Or we may 
say nothing at all about the clouds, but instead interpret what we see by saying / think 
it's going to rain. 

There is no one-to-one correlation between semantic structures and syntactic 
structures; rather, the semantic categories cut across the syntactic ones, although with 
some correlation. Semantic structures and syntactic structures do not, therefore, always 
coincide; rather, they overlap. In both cases, however, it is the process, expressed by 
the verb, that determines the choice of participants in the semantic structure and of 
syntactic elements in the syntactic structure. In Chapter 3 the possible syntactic combi- 
nations are discussed from the point of view of verb complementation and verb type. 
In this chapter we shall start from the semantics; at the same time we shall try to relate 
the choice of semantic roles to their syntactic realisations. 

One obvious problem in the identification of participants and processes is the 
vastness and variety of the physical world, and the difficulty involved in reducing this 
variety to a few prototypical semantic roles and processes. All we can attempt to do is 
to specify the paradigm cases, and indicate where more detailed specification would be 
necessary in order to account semantically for the varied shades of our experience. 


There are three main types of process: 

(a) Material processes are processes of 'doing' (e.g. kick, run, eat, give) or 'happening' 
(e.g. fall, melt, collapse, slip). 

(b) Mental processes, or processes of 'experiencing' or 'sensing' (e.g. see, hear, feel, 
know, like, want, regret). 

(c) Relational processes, or processes of 'being' (e.g. be, seem) or 'becoming' (e.g. 
become, turn), in which a participant is characterised, or identified, or situated 

There are also three subsidiary processes: behavioural, verbal and existential. We shall 
see, as we go on, that the presence or absence of volition and energy are important 
factors in distinguishing between processes. 


Most processes are accompanied by one or more inherent participants; the nature 
of the process determines how many and what kind of participants are involved. 
The material process represented by the verb fall for instance, has only one participant, 
whereas kick typically requires two: one participant is the Agent who carries out the 


action, and must be 'animate' and typically 'human'; the other is the participant affected 
by the action of kicking, and is not required to be human, or even animate. 

In the example Ted kicked the ball both the inherent participants are actualised as 
Ted and the ball. If we say Ted kicked hard, however, only one participant, the Agent, is 
actualised. The second participant, the one affected by the action, is unactualised but 
understood. In everyday uses of English, speakers frequently find it convenient not to 
actualise certain inherent participants. Give, for instance, is typically a three-participant 
process as in Mary gave the Red Cross a donation. Only two participants are actualised, 
however, in Mary gave a donation and only one in Mary gave generously. 

Certain participants are omitted in this way when they are conventionally understood 
from the context of culture or context of situation, for example: 

Do you drive? (a car) 

Have you eaten yet? (lunch/dinner) 

Shall I pour? (the tea/coffee) 

Our team is winning (the match/race) 

I can't see from here (the screen, the time . . .) 

The participant is not specific in electricity can kill, remarks like that can hurt, elephants 
never forget, Enjoy! and is perhaps not even known to the speaker in he teaches, she writes. 
Processes such as meet and kiss can be understood as having implicit reciprocity in, for 
instance, your sister and I have never met (each other). 

Some processes have typically no participants; for example, statements about the 
weather, time and distance such as it's snowing, it's half past eleven, it's a long walk to the 
beach. In these the pronoun it is merely a surface form required to realise the obligatory 
Subject element. It has no corresponding semantic function. 

Traditionally, the term intransitive has been used to refer to verbs that express 
one-participant processes such as fall or no-participant processes such as rain, whose 
action does not extend to any Object. The term transitive has been used to refer to 
verbs and clauses in which the process is extended to one or more Objects. Following 
this convention, give is transitive in Mary gave a donation but intransitive in Give generously! 

Similarly, the semantic analysis into actualised and unactualised participants is 
paralleled by the syntactic analysis of verbs such as drive, eat etc. as being either 
transitive (taking an Object) or intransitive (with no Object). 

In this book we shall use 'transitive' and 'intransitive' as syntactic terms, while 
referring semantically to one-, two- or three-participant processes, with 'actualised' or 
'unactualised' inherent participants. 

The number of participants (including the subject) involved in a process can also be 
referred to as its valency. A process with one participant is said to be monovalent 
- as in the ice melted. A process with two participants is bivalent - as in the postman 
rides a motorcycle; a process with three participants is trivalent - as in Mary gave 
the Red Cross a donation. The valency is reduced from three to two, or from two to 
one when participants are not actualised, as in the examples above (see also Chapter 
3, Introduction). 

To sum up, processes such as eat and see each have two inherent participants (the 
one who eats or sees, and the one that is eaten or seen). But in our previously listed 


examples only one is actualised. The items in brackets represent the conventionally 
understood second participant. As regards valency, in each case the normal valency of 
two is reduced to one. As regards transitivity, each of the verbs is potentially transitive, 
but as the second participant is unactualised, the use is intransitive. 





1 The first main category of processes, material processes, includes several 
kinds: 'doing', 'happening', 'causing' and 'transferring'. Typically, the action 
of 'doing' is carried out by a volitional, controlling human participant: the Agent. 
A non-controlling inanimate agent is called Force, for instance an earthquake. 

2 In processes of doing, the action either extends no further than the Agent itself, 
as in she resigned, or it extends to another participant, the Affected (the ball in 
Pele kicked the ball]. A special type of 'doing' is the process of transfer, in which 
an Agent transfers an Affected participant to a Recipient or is intended for a 
Beneficiary [give someone a present, make someone a cake, respectively). 

3 In involuntary processes of happening, the Affected undergoes the happening 
(ffie roof fell in, the old man collapsed]. 

4 The order of elements in the semantic structures is iconic, that is, the linguistic 
ordering of the event reflects our conceptualisation of the event. 


Material processes express an action or activity which is typically carried out by a 
'doer' or Agent. By 'Agent' we mean an entity having energy, volition and intention that 
is capable of initiating and controlling the action, usually to bring about some change 
of location or properties in itself or others. Agents are typically human. 

A. Agentive Subject of a voluntary process of 'doing' - They all left 

A voluntary one-participant process can be carried out by an Agent as Subject operating 
on itself: 




The Prime Minister 

sat down 

One-participant voluntary material processes answer the question What did X do? 
(What did the Prime Minister do? The Prime Minister resigned.) To test for Agent, we 
can ask the question Who resigned? (The Prime Minister did). 

8. Affected participant in a voluntary process of 'doing' - Ted hit Bill 

With action processes such as resigning and sitting down, the action does not extend 
to another participant. With others, such as hitting and carrying, it does. The second 
participant is someone or something affected by the action denoted by the verb in an 
active clause, as a result of the energy flow. This participant is called the Affected (other 
terms in use for this participant are Patient and Goal). 




The porter 


is carrying 


the ball 

our baggage 

For those material processes that have two participants, an Agent and an Affected, 
it also makes sense to ask the question What did Ted do? (He hit Bill), and to identify 
the Affected by the question 'Who(m) did Bill hit?' 

C. Affected Subject in a passive clause - Bill was hit by Ted 

Consequently, if the process extends to an Affected participant, the representation can 
be made in two forms, either active, in which Agent conflates with Subject, as above, 
or passive, in which Affected conflates with Subject: 


Material process 



The ball 
Our baggage 

was hit 

was kicked 

is being carried 

by Ted 
by Pele 
by the porter 

A further kind of material process is illustrated in Fiona made a cake and Dave wrote 
a letter. Neither the cake nor the letter existed before the process of making or writing, 
so they cannot be classed as Affecteds'. Rather, they are created as a result of the 
process, and can be called 'Effected participants'. However, no syntactic distinction is 
made between Affected and Effected participants; the distinction is purely semantic. 


14.2 FORCE 

The notion of agency is a complex one, which includes such features as animacy, 
intention, motivation, responsibility and the use of one's own energy to initiate or control 
a process. In central instances, all these features will be present. In non-central instances, 
one or more of these features may be absent. If we say, for example, that the horse 
splashed us with mud as it passed we do not imply that the horse did so deliberately. We 
do not attribute intentionality or responsibility or motivation to the horse in this situation. 
We might call it an 'unwitting Agent'. 

The higher animals, and especially pets, are often treated grammatically as if they 
were humans. Nevertheless, rather than devise a different term for every subtype of 
agency we will make just one further distinction: that between animate and inanimate 
Agents. This is useful in order to account for such natural phenomena as earthquakes, 
lightning, electricity, avalanches, the wind, tides and floods, which may affect humans 
and their possessions. They are inanimate, and their power or energy cannot therefore 
be intentional. They can instigate a process but not control it. This non-controlling entity 
we call Force; it will include such psychological states as anxiety, fear or joy. 




The volcano 




the oak tree 

An earthquake 


most of the city 


can ruin 

your health 

In the following description, the subjects in italics realise the role of Force and most 
of the verbs encode material processes: 

The cold crept in from the corners of the shanty, closer and closer to the stove. Icy- 
cold breezes sucked and fluttered the curtains around the beds. The little shanty 
quivered in the storm. But the steamy smell of boiling beans was good and if seemed 
to make the air warmer. 

(Laura Ingalls Wilder, The Long Winter) 


Not all material processes involve a voluntary action carried out by an Agent. In 
situations expressed as Jordan slipped on the ice, the roof collapsed, the children have grown, 
the vase fell off the shelf the participant, even when animate, is neither controlling nor 
initiating the action. This is proved by the inappropriateness of the question 'What did 


X do?' and of the wh-cleft test (* What the children did was grow). Rather, we should ask 
'What happened to X?' The participant on which the action centres in such cases is, 
then, Affected. It is found in involuntary transitional processes such as grow and melt, 
which represent the passage from one state to another, and in involuntary actions and 
events such as fall, slip and collapse, which may have an animate or an inanimate 

Affected Subject 

Involuntary process 




on the ice 

The children 

have grown 

The roof 


The vase 


off the shelf 

In the following passage almost all the clauses are intransitive: the Subject participant 
varies from Agentive (voluntary) to Affected (involuntary animate, or inanimate). 

Encounter between an Indian father and his son 

So I raced out of my room, 1 with my fingers in my ears, to scream 2 till the roof fell 
3 down about their ears. 

But the radio suddenly went off," the door to my parents' room suddenly opened 5 
and my father appeared, 6 bathed and shaven, his white 'dhoti' blazing, 7 his white 
shirt crackling, 6 his patent leather pumps glittering.'' He stopped* in the doorway 
and f stopped on the balls of my feet and wavered.* 2 

(Anita Desai, Games at Twilight 

'Agentive Subject; implicit Agentive Subject; 3 Affected inanimate Subject; "Affected inanimate 
Subject; 5 Affected inanimate Subject; 6 Agentive Subject; 'Affected inanimate Subject; "Affected 
inanimate Subject; 'Affected inanimate Subject; "Agentive Subject; "Agentive Subject; 
l2 animate diminished volition 

The high number of one-participant processes in this text helps to make us participate 
in the boy's apprehension. Inanimate objects (radio, door, roof, 'dhoti', shirt, pumps) 
appear to take on a life of their own, able to carry out actions which to him are potentially 
violent and threatening (fall down, blaze, crackle, glitter). Potentially threatening, too, are 
his father's actions, in this context. They are not extended to any other entity; he simply 
appears and stops. But the foreboding is there. The boy's actions are not directed towards 
anything except escape (race out). But this initial volition weakens, becomes semi- 
voluntary (scream) and is almost lost in the final intransitive (wavers). 





1 In causative material processes some external Agent or Force causes something 
to happen. In the paradigm case, a responsible, purposeful human Agent 
directly causes an Affected to undergo the action named by the verb. The 
Affected, not the Agent, is the inherent participant that undergoes the process, 
as in / rang the bell. 

2 When the Affected object of a transitive-causative clause is the same as the 
Affected subject of the corresponding intransitive clause, we have an 'ergative 

3 A 'pseudo-intransitive' expresses the facility of a participant to undergo a 
process: Glass breaks easily. 


The prototypical pattern of direct causation is quite complex. A controlling, purposeful, 
responsible Agent directs its energy towards something or someone (the Affected), so 
that this undergoes the action named by the verb, with a consequent change of state. 
The following example illustrate this transitive-causative structure. 

Initiating Agent 









the door 
the water 
the bell 

From this perspective, the action of boiling, ringing, etc. is initiated by a controlling 
Agent or a Force participant: The sun melted the ice. 


The Affected is, however, the essential participant, the one primarily involved in the 
action. It is the door that opens, the water that boils and the bell that rings. 

If we conceptualise the situation from a different angle, in which no Agent initiator 
is present, we encode the process as 'happening' of its own accord. An Agent can't be 
added. This is the anti-causative structure. 



The door 
The water 
The bell 




When the Affected object of a transitive clause (e.g. the belt) is the same as the 
Affected subject of an intransitive clause, we have an ergative alternation or ergative 
pair, as in / rang the bell (transitive) and the bell rang (intransitive). This key participant 
in both cases is sometimes called the Medium. Ergative systems in many languages are 
ordinarily characterised by morphological case marking, the subject of the intransitive 
clause and the object of the transitive clause being marked in the same way, while the 
Agentive subject is marked differently. This is not the case with English which instead 
marks both the subject of an intransitive clause and that of a transitive clause as nomi- 
native, and the object of the transitive as accusative. We can see this in the two meanings 
of leave: he left (went away, intrans.), he left them (abandon, trans.). 

Nevertheless, the term 'ergative' has been extended to English on the basis of the 
semantic association between S (intrans.) and O (trans.) in alternations illustrated by 
boil, ring, etc. The semantic similarity between these two is one of change of state. 

The test for recognising an ergative pair is that the causative-transitive, two- 
participant structure must always allow for the corresponding one-participant, anti- 
causative structure. Compare the previous examples (e.g. he opened the door/ the door 
opened) with the following, in which the first, although transitive, is not causative. There 
is no intransitive counterpart, and consequently, no ergative pair: 

Pele kicked the ball. *The ball kicked 

Ergative pairs account for many of the most commonly used verbs in English, some of 
which are listed below, with examples: 

burn I've burned the toast. The toast has burned. 

break The wind broke the branches. The branches broke. 

burst She burst the balloon. The balloon burst. 

close He closed his eyes. His eyes closed. 

cook I'm cooking the rice. The rice is cooking. 

fade The sun has faded the carpet. The carpet has faded. 

freeze The low temperature has frozen the milk. The milk has frozen. 


melt The heat has melted the ice. The ice has melted. 

run Tim is running the bathwater. The bathwater is running. 

stretch I stretched the elastic. The elastic stretched. 

tighten He tightened the rope. The rope tightened. 

wave Someone waved a flag. A flag waved. 

Within this alternation - described here as an 'ergative pair' - there is a set of basically 
intransitive volitional activities (walk, jump, march) in which the second participant is 
involved either willingly or unwillingly. The control exerted by the Agent predominates 
in the causative-transitive: 

He walked the dogs in the park. 
He jumped the horse over the fence 
The sergeant marched the soldiers. 

The dogs walked. 

The horse jumped over the fence. 

The soldiers marched. 

It is also possible to have an additional agent and an additional causative verb in the 
transitive clauses of ergative pairs; for example, The child got his sister to ring the bell, Mary 
made Peter boil the water. 


One final type of causative we will consider is the analytical type, based on combinations 
with verbs such as make and turn. In these an Agent brings about a change of state in 
the Affected participant. The resulting state is expressed by an Attribute (Complement 
of the Object in a syntactic analysis). 




Resulting Attribute 


are making 

the road 

wider and safer. 

This machine 

will make 

your tasks 


The heat 

has turned 

the milk 




her face 


The resulting change of state in the Affected participant is sometimes part of the 
meaning of a morphologically related causative verb: widen is the equivalent of make 
wide and simplify means make simple. With such verbs there are alternative SPOd 
causative structures: They are widening the road; This machine will simplify your tasks. For 
other adjectives such as safe there is no corresponding causative verb. Certain dynamic 
verbs such as turn can be used in specific causative senses in English. Have introduces 
a passive sense, expressed by a participle (cause to be -en). 

Analytical causatives and causative-transitives are illustrated in the following text: 


The cold wind made the horses eager to go. 1 They pricked their ears forward and 
back 2 and tossed their heads, 3 jingling the bits* and pretending to shy at their own 
shadows. They stretched their noses forward, 5 pulling on the bits and prancing to 
go faster. 

(Laura Ingalls Wilder, The Long Winter] 

'causing a change of state [eager] in the Affected participant (dorses); 2 causing the Affected 
[their ears] to undergo an action [prick . . . forward and back]; Causing the Affected [their 
heads] to undergo an action [toss]; "causing the Affected [the bits] to undergo an action [jingle]; 
5 causing the Affected [their noses] to undergo an action [stretch . . .]. 

Clauses 2, 3, 4 and 5 contain verbs used causatively and could have an anti-causative 

Their ears pricked forward and back 

Their heads tossed 

The bits jingled 

Their noses stretched forward 

In clause 1 the cold wind is the inanimate causer, which initiates the action. In the 
remaining clauses they (the horses) are the causative Agent, setting in motion parts of 
themselves or their harness. By choosing the two-participant, rather than the one- 
participant structure, the author is able to present the horses as lively, eager beings. 


A further type of Affected Subject occurs with certain processes (break, read, translate, 
wash, tan, fasten, lock) which are intrinsically transitive, but in this construction are 
construed as intransitive, with an Affected subject. 

Glass breaks easily. 

This box doesn't shut/close/lock/fasten properly. 

Colloquial language translates badly. 

Some synthetic fibres won't wash. Usually they dry-clean. 

Fair skin doesn't tan quickly, it turns red. 

Pseudo-intransitives differ from other intransitives in the following ways: 

They express a general property or propensity of the entity to undergo (or not 
undergo) the process in question. Compare glass breaks easily with the glass broke, 
which refers to a specific event. 
Pseudo-intransitives tend to occur in the present tense. 


The verb is accompanied by negation, or a modal (often will/ won't), or an adverb 

such as easily, well, any of which specify the propensity or otherwise of the thing to 

undergo the process. 

A cause is implied but an Agent can't be added in a fey-phrase. 

There is no corresponding transitive construction, either active or passive, that 

exactly expresses the same meaning as these intransitive s. To say, for instance, 

colloquial language is translated badly is to make a statement about translators' 

supposed lack of skill, rather than about a property of colloquial language. The 

difficulty of even paraphrasing this pattern shows how specific and useful it is. 

For the similarity of intransitive subjects and transitive objects as conveyors of new 
information, see Chapter 6. These are the roles in which new information is over- 
whelmingly expressed. 

See 30.3 for passive counterparts of active structures and 30.3.3 for the grf-passive. 
These, like copular counterparts, are not identical in meaning to the structures discussed 
here, but demonstrate some of the many ways of conceptualising an event. 

Ed broke the glass active 

The glass was broken (by Ed) fee-passive 

The glass got broken ge/-passive 

The glass was already broken copular (state) 

The glass broke (anti-causative) 

Glass breaks easily (pseudo-intransitive) 




1 There are three participants in the processes of transfer: Agent, Affected and 
Recipient or Beneficiary. 

2 The Recipient is a central participant in three-participant processes such as give. 
It encodes the one who receives the transferred material. 

3 The Beneficiary is the optional, non-central participant in three-participant 
processes such as fetch. It represents the one for whom some service is done. 


With processes that encode transfer - such as give, send, lend, charge, pay, offer and owe 
- the action expressed by the verb extends not only to the Affected but to a third inherent 
participant, the Recipient, as in: 

Ed gave the cat a bit of tuna. 

Bill's father has lent us his car. 

Have you paid the taxi-driver the right amount? 

The Recipient is the one who usually receives the 'goods', permission or informa- 
tion. (With owe there is a 'moral' Recipient who has not yet received anything.) 
The Beneficiary, by contrast is the optional, not inherent, participant for whom some 
service is done. This often amounts to being the intended recipient. However, it is not 
necessarily the same as receiving the goods. I can bake you a cake, but perhaps you 
don't want it. 

This difference is reflected in English in the syntax of verbs such as fetch, get, make, 
buy, order and many verbs of preparation such as cook, bake and mix, which can be 
replaced by make. These can represent services done for people rather than actions to 


Nurse, could you fetch me a glass of water? 

Yes, but soon I'll bring you your orange juice. I'll get you something to read, too. 

Semantically, both Recipient and Beneficiary are typically animate and human, while 
syntactically both are realised as indirect object (see 6.2.1). Occasionally an inanimate 
Recipient occurs as in: 'We'll give the unemployment question priority.' An inanimate 
Beneficiary is possible but unlikely: ?I've bought the computer a new mouse. 

The two syntactic tests for distinguishing Recipient from Beneficiary, namely 
passivisation and the prepositional counterpart, are discussed in 6.2.1 and 10.4.1. 

Recipient and Beneficiary can occur together in the same clause, as in the following 
example, which illustrates the difference between the one who is given the goods [me) 
and the intended recipient (my daughter): She gave me a present for my daughter. 

Both Recipient and Beneficiary may be involved in processes of an unbeneficial 
nature such as they sent him a letter-bomb, in which him is Recipient; and they set him a 
trap in which him is Beneficiary. 





The Prime Minister resigned 

Ed kicked the ball 

The volcano erupted 

The dog died 

Ed broke the glass 

The glass broke 

Glass breaks easily 

The glass was broken (by Ed) 

The glass got broken 

They made the road wider 

Ed gave the cat a bit of tuna 


Agent + Affected 



Agent initiator + Aff/Medium 



Affected (+ optional Agent) 


Ag. + Aff + Attribute 

Ag. + Rec + Aff 

doing (intrans.) 
doing (trans.) 
doing (intrans.) 
happening (intrans.) 
analytical causative 
transfer (trans.) 





1 Mental processes comprise processes of perception (see, hear, feel), of 
cognition (know, understand, believe) and of affection and desideration (like, 
fear; want, wish). 

2 There is always a conscious participant, the Experiencer, who perceives, 
knows, likes, etc. There is usually a second participant, the Phenomenon - 
that which is perceived, known, liked or wanted. 


Not all situations that we wish to express linguistically centre on doings and happenings. 
Mental processes are those through which we organise our mental contact with the 
world. There are four main types: cognition, such as know, understand, believe, doubt, 
remember and forget, perception, encoded by verbs such as see, notice, hear, feel and 
taste, affectivity, such as like, love, admire, miss and hate; desideration such as hope, 
want, desire and wish. Some of these are illustrated in the following invented sequence: 

Tom saw a ball in the tall grass. He knew it wasn't his, but he wanted to get it. He 
didn't realise there were lots of nettles among the grass. He soon felt his hands 
stinging. He wished he had noticed the nettles. 

With mental processes it makes no sense, as it does with material processes, to talk 
about who is doing what to whom. In, for example, Jill liked the present, Jill is not doing 
anything, and the gift is not affected in any way. We can't apply the 'doing to' test to 
processes of liking and disliking, asking for instance 'What did Jill do to the present?' 
In many cases, a better test is to question the Experiencer's reaction to something. It is 
therefore inappropriate to call Jill an Agent and the present \he Affected. Rather, we need 
two more semantic roles: 


Jill liked 

Experiencer Process 

the present 

The Experiencer (or Senser) is the participant who sees, feels, thinks, likes, etc., and 
is typically human, but may also be an animal or even a personified inanimate object 
(The rider heard a noise, the horse sensed danger, your car knows what it needs). The use of 
a non-conscious entity as Experiencer in a mental process is often exploited for 
commercial ends, as in this last example. 

The second participant in a mental process, that which is perceived, known, liked, 
etc., is called the Phenomenon. Mental processes are typically stative and non- 
volitional. When they occur in the present tense they typically take the simple, rather 
than the progressive, form. Compare this feature with material process verbs, for 
which the more usual, 'unmarked' form for expressing a happening in the present is 
the progressive. Another feature of stative verbs is that they do not easily occur in the 
imperative (Know thyself 'is a famous exception). 

*Jill is liking the present *Like the present, Jill! (mental) 
Bill is mending the bicycle. Mend the bicycle, Bill! (material) 

Mental processes can sometimes be expressed with the Phenomenon filling the Subject 
slot and the Experiencer as Object, although not necessarily by means of the same verb. 
This means that we have two possible construals of the mental experience: in the one 
case, the human participant reacts to a phenomenon, as in 1 and 2, while in the other 
the phenomenon activates the attention of the experiencer, as in 3 and 4. Reversibility 
is helped by the fact that the passive is possible with many mental processes: 




1 1 

2 Most people 


don't understand 
are horrified 


his motives 

by the increase in violence 


3 His motives 

4 The increase in violence 



most people 

Similarly, English has the verb please, which is used occasionally in this way: I don't 
think her choice pleased her mother (bnc G31639). More often 'pleased is used as an 
adjective, as in he was very pleased with himself, which adjusts to the predominant pattern 
by which human subjects are preferred to non-human ones. 'Pleased also tends to be 
equivalent to 'satisfied or polite 'willing' as in University officers will be pleased to advise 
anyone . . . (bnc G31 871), which is quite different affectively from 'like'. 

In all the examples so far, the Phenomenon has been a single entity, expressed as a 
nominal group as the Object of the verb. But it can also be a fact, a process or a whole 
situation, realised by a clause (see 11.1), as in the following examples: 


We knew that it would be difficult 

Nobody saw the train go off the rails 
I fancy going for a swim 


Cognitive processes are encoded by such stative verbs as believe, doubt, guess, know, 
recognise, think, forget, mean, remember, understand. A selection of examples is given 
below. Feel is also regularly used as an equivalent of 'believe'. Most verbs of cognition 
have as their Phenomenon a wide range of things apprehended, including human, 
inanimate and abstract entities encoded as nominal groups (a) and (b). Facts, beliefs, 
doubts, perceptions and expectations are encoded as finite rtcrt-clauses (c) and (f), finite 
w/2-clauses (e), or non-finite clauses (d), as discussed in modules 11 and 12. 


Cognitive process 



don't know 

anyone of that name (entity) (a) 



his face (entity) (b) 



that the first idea was the best (fact) (c) 


has forgotten 

to leave us a key (situation) (d) 



that it was too late (situation) (e) 



that you were ill (belief) (f) 

Many cognitive processes allow the Phenomenon to be unexpressed when this is 
'Given information' (see 29.2), for example I don't know, Jill doesn't understand, Nobody 
will remember. 

In the following short extract, the author has chosen processes of cognition, percep- 
tion, affection and one behavioural to reflect the mental make-up of a meteorologist 
whose work contributed to chaos theory: 

Lorenz enjoyed^ weather - by no means a prerequisite for a research meteorologist. 
He savored 2 its changeability. He appreciated 3 the patterns that come and go in the 
atmosphere, families of eddies and cyclones, always obeying mathematical rules, yet 
never repeating themselves. When he looked 4 at clouds he thought 5 he saw 6 a kind 
of structure in them. Once he had feared 7 that studying the science of weather would 
be like prying a jack-in-the-box apart with a screwdriver. Now he wondered' whether 
science would be able to penetrate the magic at all. Weather had a flavor that could 
not be expressed by talking about averages. 

(James Gleick, Chaos, Making a New Science) 

'affection; perception; 3 cognition; "behavioural; 5 cognirion; 'perception; 'affection; "cognition 



As expressed by the non-volitional senses of see and hear in English, perception is an 
involuntary state, which does not depend upon the agency of the perceiver, who in fact 
receives the visual and auditory sensations non-volitionally. However, as the term 
Recipient has been adopted for the one who receives goods and information in three- 
participant processes, we will keep to the terms Experiencer or Senser. In the following 
illustrations you will notice that can is used when expressing non-volitional perception 
at the moment of speaking. This use replaces the present progressive, which is 
ungrammatical in such cases (*/ am smelling gas). 

Tom saw a snake. Can you taste the lemon in the sauce? 
I can feel a draught. I can smell gas. 
We heard a noise. 

The verbs see and feel are often used in English as conceptual metaphors for the cognitive 
processes of understanding and believing, respectively, as in You do see my point, don't 
you?-No, I don't see what you mean. I feel we should talk this over further. In addition, see 
has a number of dynamic uses, such as See for yourself! with the meaning of 'verify', and 
see someone off, meaning 'accompany someone to the station, airport', among many 
others. The progressive can be used with these (see 43.5). 

Corresponding to non-volitional see and hear, English has the dynamic volitional verbs 
look, watch and listen, among others. These are classed as behavioural processes. 

The perception processes of 'feeling, 'smelling' and 'tasting' each make use of one 
verb (feel, smell and taste) to encode three different ways of experiencing these sensations: 
one stative and non-volitional (I can smell gas), a second dynamic and volitional (Just 
smell these roses!) and the third as a relational process (This fish smells bad). In languages 
other than English, these differences may be lexicalised as different verbs. 

In processes of seeing, hearing and feeling, English allows the Phenomenon to 
represent a situation that is either completed (I saw her cross the road) or not completed 
(I saw her crossing the road) (see 12.4). 


1 7.4. 1 Affective processes: loving and hating 

Under affectivity process we include those positive and negative reactions expressed 
by such verbs as like, love, please, delight, dislike, hate and detest. Common desiderative 
verbs are want and wish. 

We both love dancing. 

I detest hypocrisy. 

The ballet performance delighted the public. 

Do you want a cup of coffee? 


The Phenomenon in affectivity processes can be expressed by a nominal group which 
represents an entity, or by a clause representing an event or a situation. The situation 
is represented as actual or habitual by means of an -ing clause, while a to-infinitive clause 
will be interpreted as potential. For this reason, the latter is used in hypothetical 
meanings. Some verbs admit only one or other of the forms. Other verbs such as like, 
love and hate admit either (see also 12.4), and illustrate this semantic distinction in the 
following examples: 

-ing clause 

to-infinitive clause 

They enjoy walking in the woods. 

They love to walk in the woods. 

She likes visiting her friends. 

She would like to visit Janet. 

1 hate having a tooth out. 

1 would hate to have my teeth out. 

1 7 '.4.2 Desiderative processes: wanting and wishing 

These are expressed by such verbs as want, desire and wish. The Phenomenon role of 
want and desire can be expressed as either a thing or a situation, encoded by a nominal 
group or a to-infinitive clause, respectively; with wish only the situation meaning is 
possible. Both desire and wish can be used as very formal variants to want, and 
consequently occur in quite different registers and styles. 

Do you want anything else? (thing) 

Do you desire anything further this evening, sir? (thing) 

If you want to stay overnight, just say so. (situation) 

If you wish to remain in the college, you must comply with the regulations, (situation) 

If you desire to receive any further assistance, please ring the bell (situation) 

Wishing, however, can also express in the Phenomenon role a longing for an event or 
state that is counter to reality. This notion of unreality is expressed by a simple Past 
tense (or the Past subjunctive were if the verb is be) or a Past Perfect. These Past tenses 
have the effect of 'distancing' the event from speech time. Wish takes modal would + 
infinitive to refer to future time. The complementiser that is normally omitted (see 11.1): 

present-time reference 
past-time reference 
future-time reference 

I wish Ted were here with us. 
I wish Ted had been here with us. 
I wish Ted would come soon. 





1 The third main category of processes, relational processes, expresses the notion 
of being, in a wide sense. In English there are two main patterns of 'being': 
the Attributive, as in Tom is a pilot, and the Identifying, as in Fred is the 

2 The participant in the Attributive structure is the Carrier, the entity to which is 
ascribed an Attribute. The relations are of three kinds: attributive: Tom is 
keen, Tom is a pilot; circumstantial: The bus stop is over there; possessive: 
That car is mine. In possessive structures the participants are known as the 
Possessor and the Possessed. 

3 The identifying pattern is reversible: it identifies one entity in terms of another. 
These are the Identified and the Identifier as in Fred is the doorman/The 
doorman is Fred. A different analysis assigns Value to the more general role 
(the doorman) and Token to the one that fills that role (Fred). 

4 The process itself is encoded by linking verbs (mainly be and have) whose 
function is to carry tense and to relate the Carrier to its Attribute, the Identified 
to its Identifier and the Possessor to the Possessed. Others like lack and feel 
encode additional meanings. 


Relational processes express the concept of being in a broad sense. They answer the 
questions 'Who or what, where/when or whose is some entity, or What is some entity 
like?' In other words, relational processes cover various ways of being: being something, 
being in some place/at some time, or in a relation of possession, as illustrated here: 

a (high) mountain, (an instance of a type) 

popular with climbers, (attribution) 

the highest mountain in Europe, (identification) 



Mont Blanc 



Mont Blanc 



Mont Blanc 


4 Mont Blanc is in the Alps, (circumstance: location) 

5 Those gloves are yours, (possession) 

There are two main patterns, the attributive as in 1, 2, 4 and 5 and the identifying, as in 
3. We shall take a look at each in turn. 


There is one participant, the Carrier, which represents an entity. Ascribed to the Carrier 
is an Attribute, which characterises the entity in some way. Here are some examples: 




Their eldest son 

The unemployment figures 

Sports equipment 



a musician 


on the third floor 

In the examples seen so far, the Attribute characterises the entity in the following 
ways: as an instantiation of a class of entities (a mountain, a musician) or a subclass (that 
of high mountains, as in (1); by a quality (popular with climbers, alarming); by a location 
(in the Alps, on the third floor); or as a type of possession (yours) (see also 18.4). 

There is an intensive relationship between the Carrier and its Attribute. That is to say, 
the Carrier /sin some way the Attribute. The Attribute is not a participant in the situation, 
and when realised by a nominal group the NG is non-referential; it can't become the 
Subject in a clause. Attributive clauses are non-reversible in the sense that they don't 
allow a Subject-Complement switch. They allow thematic fronting (see 28.7) as in . . . 
and a fine musician he was too, but a fine musician is still the Attribute, and he the Subject. 

The process itself, when encoded by be, carries little meaning apart from that of tense 
(past time as in was; present as in is, are). Its function is to link the Carrier to the Attribute. 
However, the process can be expressed either as a state or as a transition. With stative 
verbs such as be, keep, remain, seem and verbs of sensing, such as look (- 'seem'), the 
Attribute is seen as existing at the same time as the process described by the verb and 
is sometimes called the current Attribute. 

With dynamic verbs of transition such as become, get, turn, grow, run, the Attribute 
exists as the result of the process and can be called the resulting Attribute. Compare 
The weather is cold with The weather has turned cold. 

Current Attribute 

Resulting Attribute 

We kept quiet 

He remained captain for years 

Your sister looks tired 

The public are weary of strikes 

We fell silent 

He became captain 

She gets tired easily 

The public has grown weary of strikes 


There is a wide variety of verbs in English to express both states and transitions (see 
9.4). As states, the most common verbs of perception such as look, feel, sound, smell and 
taste keep their experiential meaning in relational clauses. An Experiencer participant 
(e.g. to me) can be optionally added to this semantic structure: 

feel The surface feels too rough (to me) 

feel as if My fingers feel as if they were dropping off with the cold 

look Does this solution look right? (to you) 

look like [What's that insect?] It looks like a dragonfly (to me) 

sound His name sounds familiar (to me) 

smell That fish smells bad (to me) 

taste This soup tastes of vinegar (to me) 

The verb feel can function in two types of semantic structure: with an Experiencer/ 
Carrier (I feel hot; she felt ill), or with a neutral Carrier (the surface feels rather rough). 
In expressions referring to the weather, such as it is hot/ cold/sunny/windy/ frosty/ cloudy/ 
foggy, there is no Carrier and much of the meaning is expressed by the Attribute. 


These are processes of being in which the circumstantial element is essential to the 
situation, not peripheral to it (see also 9.2). The circumstance is encoded as Attribute 
in the following examples and stands in an intensive relationship with the Carrier: 

Location in space: The museum is round the corner. 

Location in time: Our next meeting will be on June 10. 

Means: Entrance to the exhibition is by invitation. 

Agent: This symphony is by Mahler. 

Beneficiary: These flowers are for you. 

Metaphorical meanings: He's off alcohol. Everyone's into yoga nowadays. 

The circumstance is encoded by the verb in The film script concerns (- is about) a 
pyschopath who kidnaps a girl, The desert stretches as far as the eye can see, The carpet 
measures three metres by two, The performance lasted three hours. 

Examples such as Tomorrow is Monday; Yesterday was July 1st are reversible and can 
be considered as identifying circumstantial processes. 


The category of possession covers a wide number of subtypes, of which the most 
prototypical are perhaps part- whole (as in your left foot), ownership (as in our house) and 
kinship relations (such as Jane's sister). Other less central types include unowned 
possession (as in the dog's basket), a mental quality (her sense of humour), a physical quality 


(his strength), occupancy (his office) and an association with another person (my friends 
and colleagues). All these types and others are grammaticalised at the level of the clause 
in possessive relational processes. A relatively small number of verbs occur, principally 
be, have, own and possess. The two participants involved are the Possessor and the 
Possessed. The notion of possession is expressed either by the Attribute, as in That 
computer is mine, or by the process itself, as in / have a new computer. 

A. Possession as Attribute 

In this, the verb is be and the Attribute/Possessor is encoded by a possessive pronoun 
(mine, yours, his, hers, ours, theirs) or by an 's phrase such as John's in The green Peugeot 
is John's. The sequence is similar with belong, although it is then the verb that conveys 
the notion of possession: 

The be/belong possessive structure 



Possessor/ Attribute 

These keys 
This glove 
This mansion 


my brother's 


to a millionaire 

8. Possession as process 

English has several verbs to express possession. With be, have, own, possess and the more 
colloquial have got, the Carrier is the Possessor and the Attribute is the Possessed. 

Also included in the category of 'possessing' are the notions of not possessing (lack, 
need), of being worthy to possess (deserve), and the abstract relations of inclusion, 
exclusion and containment: 

Verbs of possession in the Possessor-Possessed structure 




The baby 


blue eyes 

His uncle 


a yacht 


don't possess 

a gun 









a prize 

The price 



The price 



That can 




Relational processes are extremely common in all uses of English. The following 
extract is based on an interview with a young farmer who breeds pigs. He describes 
them, not by what they do, but as they are; this view is reflected in the large number of 

Pigs are different.^ A pig is more of an individual, 2 more human 3 and in many ways 
a sfrangely likeable character. 4 Pigs have strong personalities 5 and it is easy to get 
fond of them. 6 I am always getting fond of pigs and feel a bit conscience-stricken 7 
when I have to put them inside for their whole lives. Pigs are very clean animals 8 
but, like us, they are all different? some will need cleaning ouf° after half a day 
and some will be neaf and tich/ ' after three days. Some pigs are always in a mess u 
and won't care. Pigs are very interesting people™ and can leave quite a gap when 
they go off to the bacon factory. 

(Ronald Blythe, Akenfield] 


The participant roles in an identifying relationship are known as Identified and 
Identifier. Identification means that one participant, the Identified, is identified in terms 
of the other (the Identifier), in a relation of symbolic correlates. The Identifier is the one 
that fills the wh- element in a w/2-question corresponding to the identifying clause: 

(a) [What/ Which is Mont Blanc?] 

Mont Blanc (Identified) is the highest mountain in Europe (Identifier). 

(b) [Which is your father-in-law? Looking at a photograph] 

My father-in-law (Identified) is the one in the middle (Identifier). 

Identifying processes are reversible. The previous illustrations can be turned around, 
with the Identified/Identifying roles now represented by the opposite constituent: 

(c) [ What/ Which is the highest mountain in Europe?] 

The highest mountain in Europe (Identified) is Mont Blanc (Identifier). 

(d) [ Who/ Which is the one in the middle?] 

The one in the middle (Identified) is my father-in-law (Identifier). 

The difference between the two sequences lies in which element we want to identify; 
for instance, do we want to identify Mont Blanc or do we want to identify the highest 
mountain in Europe? In a discourse context this is a matter of presumed knowledge. 
Question (a) presumes that the listener has heard of Mont Blanc but doesn't know its 
ranking among mountains. The answer could be 'Mont Blanc (Identified) is the highest 
mountain in Europe (Identifier)', in which the highlighted part represents tonic 


prominence and the new information. Question (c) presumes that our listener knows 
there are high mountains in Europe, but not which one is the highest, receiving the 
answer 'The highest mountain in Europe (Identified) is Mont Blanc (Identifier)'. 
Alternatively, in answer to the same question Which is the highest mountain in Europe? 
we could say 'Mont Blanc (Identifier) is the highest mountain in Europe (Identified)'. 
In spoken discourse it is the Identifier that typically receives the tonic prominence 
that is associated with new information, whether this is placed at the end (the usual 
position) or at the beginning of the clause. In each sequence, then, one half is typically 
something or someone whose existence is already known (the Identified), whereas the 
Identifier presents information as unknown or new to the listener. (These notions are 
explained more fully in Module 29 on information packaging.) 


in Identifying clauses 



Mont Blanc 


the highest mountain in Europe. 

My father-in-law 


the one in the middle. 



Mont Blanc 


the highest mountain in Europe. 

My father-in-law 


the one in the middle. 

A further concept complementary to Identifying processes is that of 'representation' 
or 'roles filled'. One participant, the Token, is the entity that 'represents' or 'fills the 
role of the other, the Value, as in: 

Token/ Identified 

My father-in-law 

is (= fulfils the role of) 
is (= represents) 

Value/ Identifier 

the club's Secretary 

the key to resolving the dispute 

Here the question is 'Which role (Value) does my father-in-law/ negotiation (Token) 
fulfil or represent?' However, we can put the question the other way round: 'Which is 
the role of Club Secretary played by?/ the key to resolving the dispute fulfilled by?' We 
have a different conflation of Identified/ Identifier with Token/ Value: 

Value/ Identified 

The club's Secretary 

The key to resolving the dispute 

is (fulfilled by) 
is (represented by) 

Token/ Identifier 

my father-in-law 

The two sets of roles are different in kind. Identified and Identifier depend for their 
interpretation on the point in discourse in which they occur: the Identified is the one 
which has already been introduced, and the Identifier identifies it in a new way. Token 
and Value assignation depends, by contrast, on the intrinsic semantic properties of the 


two ways of referring to the entity. Whichever is the more generalisable is the Value, 
while the Token is the specific representation of the Value. In a particular text, the Value 
points to particular cultural values and organisation, such as the importance of 
negotiation in resolving disputes, and granting denominations to people who fill certain 
functions in society. The following passage, Colours in Rugs across Cultures, illustrates 
such correspondences: 

The meaning of individual colours varies from culture to culture. In Muslim countries, 
green - the colour of Mohammed's coat - is sacred and is very rarely used as a 
predominant colour, but it forms an important part of the dyer's palette in non-Muslim 
cultures, particularly in China; here, the sacred colour is yellow, in which the Emperor 
traditionally dressed. White represents grief to the Chinese, Indians and Persians. 
Blue symbolises heaven in Persia, and power and authority in Mongolia. Orange is 
synonymous with piety and devotion in Muslim countries, while red, the most 
universal rug colour, is widely accepted as a sign of wealth and rejoicing. 

(bnc exo 393-398) 

Finally, the difference between the Attributive and the Identifying patterns is reflected 
in the syntax in three ways: Only the identifying type is reversible (cf. *A high mountain 
is Mont Blanc); only the characterising type can be realised by an adjective (The 
unemployment figures are alarming); and Nominal groups that realise characterising 
Attributes are usually indefinite (a musician), while NGs that realise identifying Attributes 
are usually definite (the club Secretary). 

Certain relational processes of possession can be analysed by the Identifying pattern, 
and are reversible if suitably contextualised as identifying people's possessions. For 
example, sandwiches: Yours is the ham-and-cheese; Tim 's is the egg-and-lettuce and mine is 
the tomato-and-tuna. Similarly, circumstantial Attributes can be reversed when explaining 
the layout of an area: Across the road, past the fountain is the Prado Museum. On your left 
is the Ritz Hotel. Further back is the Real Academia. 





1 Processes of saying and communicating are verbal processes. The participant 
who communicates is the Sayer, and is typically human, while what is com- 
municated is the 'Said' and may be a reported statement, a reported question 
or a reported directive (order, request, etc.). A Recipient, the addressee, is 
required with tell, and a Target may also be present in some verbal processes. 

2 Behavioural processes are half-way between material and mental processes, in 
that they have features of each. They include involuntary processes (cough) and 
volitional processes (watch, stare, listen). 

3 Existential processes, rather than stating that things simply exist, tend to specify 
the quantification and/or the location of something: There are bits of paper 
everywhere. The single participant is the Existent, which may be an entity or 
an event. 


Verbal processes are processes of saying' or 'communicating' and are encoded by such 
verbs as say, tell, repeat, ask, answer and report. They have one participant which is 
typically human, but not necessarily so (the Sayer) and a second essential participant, 
which is what is said or asked or reported (the Said). A Recipient is required with tell 
and may be present as an oblique form (e.g. to me) with other verbal processes: 


Verbal process 




had to say 

her name twice 

That clock 


five past ten 

The police officer 


the question 




what she knew 

Our correspondent 


renewed fighting on 
the frontier 


The Sayer can be anything which puts out a communicative signal (that clock, Jill, 
our correspondent). What is said is realised by a nominal group or a nominal what-clause 
(what she knew). As these examples show, verbal processes are intermediate between 
material and mental processes. From one point of view, communicating is a form 
of 'doing', and in fact the Sayer is usually agentive or made to appear agentive, as in the 
case of the clock. Like material processes, verbal processes readily admit the imperative 
(Say it again!) and the progressive ( What is he saying?). 

On the other hand, the action of communicating is close to cognitive processes such 
as thinking. Verbs of saying, telling and others can be followed by a clause that 
represents either the exact words said (direct report) or a reported version of the 
meaning (indirect report). Many speech-act verbs can function in this way, to report 
statements, questions, warnings, advice and other speech acts: 

She said: 'I won't be late' (quoted statement or promise) 

She said she wouldn't be late (reported statement or promise) 

She said: 'Don't go to see that film' (quoted directive: advice) 

She told us not to go to see that film (reported directive: advice) 

These alternative encodings are described more fully in Chapter 7. For the syntactic- 
semantic differences between say and tell in English, see 11.2. 

When however, the message is encapsulated as a speech act by means of a nominal 
- such as 'apology', 'warning', 'greeting', 'thanks' and many others - it is treated as a 
participant in the verbal process. The verb then may express the manner of saying: 

The airport authorities issued an apology 

Someone shouted a warning 

Retired cop vows revenge (press headline) 

Wish in / wish you a merry Christmas is clearly both mental and verbal. Talk and chat are 
verbal processes, which have an implicit reciprocal meaning (They talked/ chatted [to 
each other]). Talkhas no second participant except in the expressions talk sense/ nonsense. 
Speak is not implicitly reciprocal and can take a Range participant; see 20.1 (She speaks 
Spanish. He speaks five languages). 

Besides the Sayer and the Said, a further participant, the Target, encodes the person 
or thing at which the message is directed, as in: 

Everyone is acclaiming the new musical as the event of the year. 


A borderline area between mental processes and material processes is represented by 
behavioural processes such as cough, sneeze, yawn, blink, laugh and sigh, which are 
usually one-participant. They are considered as typically involuntary; but it may be that 
there is a very slight agency involved. They can be deliberate, too, as in he coughed 
discreetly, he yawned rudely, in which the adjunct of manner implies volition. Acting 
excepted, most volitional adjuncts could not be used with die, collapse and grow, which 
are typically lacking in agency and volition. 


We have already seen that mental processes such as see and hear have behavioural 
counterparts (watch and listen, respectively), which are dynamic and volitional, and have 
agentive Subjects, while see, taste and/ee/have both non-volitional and volitional senses. 
Similarly, think (in the sense of ponder) and enjoy can be used dynamically: 

What are you thinking about? 

I am enjoying the play enormously. 



Existential processes are processes of existing or happening. The basic structure consists 
of unstressed there + be + a NG (There's a man at the door; there was a loud bang). There 
is not a participant as it has no semantic content, although it fulfils both a syntactic 
function as Subject (see 5.1.2) and a textual function as 'presentative' element (see 30.4). 
The single participant is the Existent, which may refer to a countable entity (There's 
a good film on at the Scald), an uncountable entity ( There's roast lamb for lunch) or an 
event (There was an explosion). 

Semantically, existential processes state not simply the existence of something, but 
more usually expand the Existent in some way: 

by adding a quantitative measure and/or the location of the Existent: 

I went for a walk in the woods. It was all right, there were lots of people there. 

BNC GUK 2339-2400 
There were all sorts of practical problems. 

with quantification and an Attribute characterising the Existent: 

There are some pages blank. 
There were few people in favour. 

with quantification and expansion of the Existent by the addition of clauses: 

There are few people who realise the danger. 
There 's nothing to be done about it. 

The process in existential clauses is expressed by the following verbs: 

most typically by be; 

certain intransitive verbs expressing positional states (stand, lie, stretch, hang and 

a few intransitive dynamic verbs of 'occurring', 'coming into view' or 'arrival on the 
scene' (occur, follow, appear, emerge, loom) (cf. 30.4.3). 
These are illustrated below: 

There remain many problems. 
There followed a long interval. 
There emerged from the cave a huge brown bear. 


Existential there may be omitted when a locative or directional Adjunct is in initial 

Below the castle (there) stretches a vast plain. 
Out of the mist (there) loomed a strange shape. 

Without 'there' such clauses are very close semantically to reversed circumstantial 
clauses. However, the addition of a tag question - with there, not a personal pronoun 
(Close to the beach stands a hotel, doesn 't there! *doesn 't it?) - suggests that they are in fact 

The following extract from D. H. Lawrence's story The Lost Girl illustrates existentials: 

She looked at the room. There was a wooden settle in front of the hearth, stretching 
its back to the room. 1 There was a little table under a square, recessed window, 2 on 
whose sloping ledge were newspapers, scattered letters, nails and a hammer. 3 On 
the table were dried beans and two maize cobs. 4 In the corner were shelves, 5 with 
two chipped enamel plates, and a small table underneath, on which stood a bucket 
of water and a dipper. 6 Then there was a wooden chest, two little chairs and a litter 
of faggots, cane, vine-twigs, bare maize hubs, oak-twigs filling the corner by the 
hearth. 7 





The circumstantial element in English covers a great variety of meanings, of which 
the most common are those related to place and time, manner, contingency, 
accompaniment, modality, degree, role, matter and evidence. They are described 
from the point of view of their syntactic function in 8. 1 and also as group structures 
in 57. 


There are many parallel expressions of place and time, in many cases introduced by the 
same preposition (see also Module 59): 




at home, in the park, on the desk 

at 5 o'clock, in May, years ago, on 


from the library, from Ed 

from January 


the plane flew over the hills, 
through the clouds 

They stayed over the weekend 


towards the south 

towards midnight 


to Canada 
[we went] home 

to June 


for several miles 

for several years 

extent + goal 

as far as Granada 

until 10 o'clock, by Tuesday 


here, there, nearby, in front, 
behind us 

now, then, recently, before/ 
after dinner 


at intervals, every 100 yards, 
here and there 

at intervals, every so often, now 
and then, off and on 


Locative, goal and directional meanings are questioned by where? (the preposition 
to is not used in questions other than the verbless Where to?); source meanings by where 
. . . from? and for time, since when? extent by how far? how long? and distribution by how 

A. Manner 

The notion of manner (How?) is extended to include the notions of means (By what 
means?, instrumentality (What with?) and comparison (What like?): 

Manner how? Don't do it that way; do it gently. 

Means how? It's cheaper by bus. 

Comparison what . . . like? Snow lay like a blanket on the ground. 
Instrument what . . . with? You can stick the pieces together with glue. 

They levelled the site with a bulldozer. 

8. Instrument 

This is the tool or means, generally inanimate, used by a controlling Agent to carry out 
the process. It is strongly associated with the preposition with: Write with a pen. 

With some verbs the notion of Instrument is incorporated into the process itself. In 
this way, bulldoze can be used as a material process: the builders bulldozed the site. Other 
examples include: 

He elbowed his way through the crowd, (by using his elbows) 
Figo headed the ball into the goal, (by using his head) 
They levered the rock into position, (by using a lever) 

C. Contingency 

The circumstantial element of contingency covers such meanings as cause, purpose, 
reason, concession and behalf: 




what cause? 

what . . . for? 


The child took the pen out of envy. 
They are dying of hunger. 

He is studying for a degree. 
The team is training to win. 

We stayed in on account of the rain. 
He stopped because he was tired. 

Concession despite what conditions? In spite of the delay, we reached the 

concert hall in time. 


who /what for? 

Give up smoking for the sake of your 


I'll speak to the Director on your behalf. 

Condition under what conditions? Send a telegram, if necessary. 


D. Accompaniment 

Accompaniment expresses a joint participation in the process, involving either the 
notion of 'togetherness' or that of 'additionality'. Each of these can be either positive or 

togetherness positive Tom came with his friend/ with a new haircut. 

togetherness negative Tom came without his friend /without the car. 

additionality positive Tom came as well as Paul. 

additionality negative Tom came instead of Paul. 

E. Modality 

Modality expresses the notions of possibility, probability and certainty (see 44.1): 

possibility His new novel will possibly come out next month, 
probability It will probably be well received, 
certainty It will certainly cause a lot of controversy. 

F. Degree 

Circumstantial expressions of degree either emphasise or attenuate the process: 

emphasis I completely forgot to bring my passport, 
attenuation You can hardly expect me to believe that. 

C. Role 

Role answers the question What as? or In what capacity? 

capacity I'm speaking to you as a friend. 

As an actor he's not outstanding, but as a dancer he's brilliant. 

H. Matter 

This element adds the notion of 'with reference to . . .' and is realised by a wide variety 
of simple and complex prepositions, including those circumstantial complements that 
follow certain verbs such as deprive, rob and help oneself (see 7.3.1 and 10.3.2): 

We have been talking about her wedding. 
Is there any news of the missing seamen? 
With regard to your order of July 17 . . . 
As for that, I don't believe a word of it. 
You shouldn't deprive yourself of vitamins. 
Help yourself to wine. 


/. Evidence 

Relates to the source of information in verbal processes and is expressed by as x says, 
or according to x: 

As the saying goes, no news is good news. 

According to the weatherman, there will be heavy snowstorms this weekend. 

Some of the numerous types of circumstance available are illustrated in the following 
extract from John Le Carre, The Spy Who Came In from the Cold. This type of fiction 
tends to contain very detailed references to the circumstances accompanying each 

He'd noticed it first during the Riemick case^ early last year. 2 Karl had sent a 
message; he'd got something special for him and was making one of his rare visits 
to Western Germany? some legal conference at Karlsruhe. 4 Leamas had managed 
to get an air passage to Cologne, 5 and picked up a car at the airport. 6 It was stiW 
quite early in the morning* and he'd hoped to miss most of the autobahn traffic to 
Karlsruhe'' but the heavy lorries were already 10 on the move. He drove seventy 
kilometres in half an hour, u weaving between the traffic, taking risks to beat the 
clock,™ when a small car, a Fiat probably, u nosed its way out into the fast /one 14 
forty yards ahead of him.™ Leamas stamped on the brake, turning his headlights 
full on and sounding his horn, and by the grace of God"' he missed it; missed it by 
the fraction of a seconds 7 

'extent: time; location: time; 3 goal: space; "location: space; 5 goal: space; 'location: 
space; 7 relative: time; location: time; 'goal: space; '"relative; "extent: time; 
"purpose; "modality; '"direction: space; ''location: space; ,6 cause; ,7 degree. 

20.2 RANGE 

Rather than a circumstance, Range is a participant: the nominal concept that is implied 
by the process as its scope or range: song in sing a song, games in play games, race in run 
a race. Some, such as song, are derived from a related verb; others such as game are not. 
Perhaps the most common type of Range element today are the deverbal nominals 
which complement lexically 'light' verbs such as have and give: 

Have an argument, a chat, a drink, a fight, a rest, a quarrel, a smoke, a taste, an 

Give a push, a kick, a nudge, a smile, a laugh, a kiss; a presentation, a lecture 
Take a sip, a bath, a nap, a photograph, a shower, a walk 
Do a dance, a handstand, a left/ right turn, a sketch, a translation, some work, some 

cleaning, some painting 


Ask a question 

Make a choice, a comment, a contribution, a mistake, a payment, a reduction, a 

Using this type of range participant (a kick, a push, etc.) with a 'light' verb entails the 
meaning of the nominal as verb. In other words, if you take a sip of the juice, you sip 
the juice. If we have a chat, we chat. In some cases, such as make an effort, there is 
no corresponding verb. One reason for the popularity of this construction today is the 
potential that the noun has for being modified in various ways. It would be difficult 
to express by a verb, even with the help of adverbs, the meanings of specificness, 
quantification and quality present in she took a long, relaxing hot bath, they played two 
strenuous games of tennis, I had such a strange experience yesterday. 

As a result of modification, the nominal is longer and heavier than the verb which 
precedes it. This allows us to build up our message to a climax (see 6. 1.2d). Furthermore, 
the Range nominal can initiate a wh-c\eft structure more easily than a verb can (see 30.2) 
as in A good rest is what you need. 




Nominalisation and grammatical metaphor 


1 The semantic structures described so far reflect the basic semantic-syntactic 
correspondences we use when encoding situations. They reflect the typical way 
of saying things. Agents carry out actions that affect other participants, 
Experiencers perceive Phenomena. Furthermore, processes have been realised 
by verbs, entities by nouns, and Attributes by (for instance) adjectives and 
possessives. These are the basic realisations which are found in the language 
of children and in much everyday spoken English. But any state of affairs can 
be conceptualised and expressed in more than one way. A more nominalised 
version encodes actions and states as nouns, which involves a complete 
restructuring of the clause. This has been called 'grammatical metaphor'. Its 
most obvious characteristic is nominalisation. 

2 Thus, a process can be realised as an entity: government spending is one 
example. Similar transferred functions occur with attributes and circumstances. 
These alternative realisations of the semantic roles involve further adjustments in 
the correspondences between semantic roles and syntactic functions in the clause. 

3 Grammatical metaphor is a feature of much written English and of spoken 
English in professional registers. 

4 The 'transitivity hypothesis' offers an alternative view, in which transitivity is a 
matter of gradation from high to low. 


Situations and events can be conceptualised and expressed linguistically in two major 
ways. More transparent, because they are closer to the speaker's experience, are the 
basic transitivity patterns that we have examined so far throughout this chapter. In these 
semantic structures the processes, participants and circumstances are encoded by their 
typical clause functions, with agency and chronological sequencing made explicit. That 


is, in active clauses, the inherent participants such as Agent, Affected, Experiencer and 
Carrier are realised by NGs, processes are realised by VGs and circumstantials by PPs 
and by AdvGs. This correspondence between the semantics and the syntax of English 
structures is indeed the typical one, but it is by no means the only one. 

We have to beware of assuming that a one-to-one correspondence exists between 
any semantic function and any syntactic function. We have to beware of assuming that 
entities such as people and things are necessarily expressed by nouns, that actions are 
necessarily expressed by verbs and that qualities are necessarily expressed by adjectives. 
Except in the language of children and in very basic English, our linguistic representation 
of reality tends to be more complex. Any situation can be expressed in more than one 
way; the first or typical realisation may be called the 'iconic' one, in which the form 
mirrors the meaning; any others are the 'metaphorical'. The two forms maybe illustrated 
by an example. 

Suppose that I wish to tell you that my friends and I walked in the evening along the 
river as far as Henley. In the 'typical' or 'iconic' version, I first select the process type 
from the options 'material', 'mental' and 'relational' processes. A process of 'doing' fits 
the conceptualised situation best, and more specifically, a process of motion which 
includes manner. Among possible types of motion I select a material process walk. To 
accompany a process such as walk used intransitively, I then select an Agent, or 'doer' 
of the action, and a number of circumstantial elements, of time, place and direction as 
a setting, to give the following semantic structure and its lexico-grammatical realisation: 



Time circ. 

Place circ. 





in the evening 


along the river 


to Henley 

This is not the only way of expressing this situation. Instead, I could have said Our 
evening walk along the river took us to Henley. In this 'metaphorical' interpretation the 
semantic functions are 'transferred' in relation to the syntactic functions. The material 
process walkhas now become Agent, and the circumstances of time (in the evening) and 
place (along the river) have become classifier and post-modifier, respectively, of the new 
Agent realised at subject (evening walk along the river). The original Agent we is now 
divided into two; one part functions as possessor of the Subject entity (our evening walk 
along the river), the other as Affected (us) of a new material process expressed by the 
verb took. Only the Goal circumstance to Henley is realised in the same way in both 


Material process 




Our evening walk 
along the river 





to Henley 


This second interpretation is a very simple instance of 'grammatical metaphor' or 
alternative realisations of semantic functions, and is a phenomenon which occurs all 
the time, in different degrees, in adult language, especially in certain written genres. 

Even in everyday spoken language it sometimes happens that the metaphorical form 
has become the normal way of expressing a certain meaning. We have seen that the 
Range element (see 20.1) drink/ chat/ rest in have a drink/ chat/ rest is the one that 
expresses the process, while the syntactic function of Predicator is now realised by the 
'light' verb have. These are simple types of transferred semantic functions which have 
been incorporated into everyday language. Now compare the ordinary correspondences 
in example a below with the nominalised version of b: 


a. People in all 

Material process 

are [now] travelling 




much more than they 
used to. 

Abstract Subject 

b. Foreign travel 






on the increase. 

In a we have a process of 'doing' [are travelling), with an Agent/Subject and three 
circumstances (now, abroad and much more than they used to). In b, by contrast, the 
process is relational with be, the human Agent has disppeared, and instead we have 
an abstract subject based on the verb 'travel' {foreign travel), followed by two circum- 
stances. Apart from these differences, we note that the two meanings are not quite 
equivalent. The notion of 'all countries' is replaced by the less explicit 'everywhere', that 
of 'abroad' is replaced by 'foreign', while the notions expressed by 'now' and 'used to' 
are not encoded at all, but remain implicit. 

More importantly, the two versions represent two different cognitive mappings of a 
situation on to different semantic and syntactic structures. The event is 'perspectivised' 
differently in each case, with attention centred in the second on the salient abstraction 
'foreign travel', rather than on persons. 


It is clear that a choice of transferred realisations such as these has as one result the 
loss of human agency, which is usually replaced by an abstraction related to the original 
Agent (government spending, foreign travel). A second result is an increase in lexical 
density: Nominal groups become long and heavy. For this reason, nominalisation is 
the form of grammatical metaphor most consistently recognised under different labels. 
It distances us from the event, raising the representation of a situation to a higher level 
of abstraction. Once objectified and depersonalised in this way, the event or abstraction 


is conceptualised as if it had temporal persistence, instead of the transience associated 
with a verb. 

At the same time, nominalisations are more versatile than verbs. The noun 'explosion' 
from 'explode' can carry out all the functions realised by nominals, such as a Subject or 
Direct Object (The explosion occurred at 6 a.m.; leaking gas caused an explosion). With this 
new status as a referent, a nominalisation can give the impression that what it expresses 
is a recognised piece of information, whose validity is beyond dispute. Compare the 
following a extract from a news item with the non-nominalised b version: 

a. Government spending showed positive growth in the last quarter in contrast to its 
sharp fall in the previous one. 

b. The government spent much more in the last quarter than was planned, whereas 
it spent considerably less in the previous one. 

As soon as we examine samples of more formal English - that used in specialised fields 
such as the natural sciences, the social sciences, politics, administration and business, 
finance and technology - we find a great number of such nominalisations. These tend 
to be abstract nouns derived from verbs and other parts of speech, which can encode 
quite complex meanings. 

Lexical metaphor can occur together with grammatical metaphor, as illustrated by 
'growth' and 'fall', so common in texts on economics. Here, grammar borders on lexis, 
and different languages have different means of visualising one semantic function as 
if it were another. Here we can do no more than briefly outline some of the transfers of 
semantic functions. In the following sections, metaphorical forms are given first, with a 
basic corresponding meaning suggested in the right-hand column. 

2 1 .2. 1 Process realised as entity 

This is by far the most common type of grammatical metaphor. Many are institution- 
alised nominalisations, such as the following: 

Nominalised form Basic form 

a. Without the slightest hesitation. Without hesitating at all. 

6. Take a deep breath. Breathe deeply. 

c. There was a sudden burst of X burst out laughing suddenly. 

d. The exploration and mapping of X continued to explore and map the world. 
the world went on. 

Many others, however, represent a more original view of reality on the part of the 
speaker or writer, as in example e: 

e. His conception of the drama has He conceives of the drama in a way that 
a very modern ring. sounds very modern to us. 


21.2.2 Attribute realised as entity 

An Attribute can be realised as an entity by means of an abstract noun. The forms may 
be morphologically related: bigness-big as in example a and usefulness-useful in b. The 
remaining parts of the sentence may have different correspondences, which are not in 
a one-to-one relationship with the forms of the nominalised version. 

a. Bigness is paid for, in part, by If firms are very big, they will be fewer and 
fewness, and a decline in will have less need to compete. 

b. The usefulness of this machinery This machinery is becoming less useful. 
is dwindling. 

21.2.3 Circumstance as entity 

A common shift is to have a temporal circumstance functioning as a locative Subject. 
This involves a new verb, such as 'find', 'witness' and 'see' in these examples: 

a. August 12 found the travellers in The travellers were/arrived in Rome 
Rome. on August 12. 

b. The last decade has witnessed During the last decade agricultural 

an unprecedented rise in technology has increased as never before, 

agricultural technology. 

c. The seventeenth century saw the In the seventeenth century scientific works 
development of systematic began to be published systematically, 
scientific publication. 

As these new processes are transitive, typically taking an Object, further nominalisations 
are to be expected, such as rise (or increase) in agricultural technology, instead of increase 
as a verb. In many cases, such as c it is difficult to 'unpack' the metaphorical encoding 
completely into a simpler form. The two forms of expression are the result of different 
cognitive encodings. 

21.2.4 Dependent situation as entity 

A whole state of affairs, which in its congruent form would be realised as a subordinate 
clause, can be visualised as an entity and expressed by a nominal: 

Fears of disruption to oil supplies Because people feared that oil would not 

from the Gulf helped push crude oil be supplied as usual from the Gulf, the 
prices up dramatically. price of crude oil rose dramatically. 

We can observe that, in many cases of nominalisation, normal human Agents and 
Experiencers are absent, replaced by abstractions that are in some way related to them 
('fears', 'laughter') and may be more emotionally charged. In other cases, those where 
a temporal entity 'witnesses' the event, the human Agent may not be recoverable at all, 
as in b and c above. 


These few examples may serve to show that in English grammatical metaphor is 
a very powerful option in the presenting of information. It reconceptualises an event as 
a participant, with the consequent restructuring of the rest of the clause, which influences 
the way the information is perceived. It presents a different cognitive mapping from 
that of the 'congruent' or iconic correspondence between syntax and semantics that 
is found in basic English. In institutionalised settings, the concept of grammatical 
metaphor goes a long way towards explaining professional jargons such as journalese 
and officialese as written forms. Others, such as the language of business management, 
use nominalisation in spoken as well as written English (see p. 166 for summary of 
processes, participants and circumstances). 


A different approach to transitivity, which has not been discussed in this chapter for 
reasons of space, is the 'transitivity hypothesis'. This views transitivity in discourse as 
a matter of gradation, dependent on various factors. A verb such as kick, for example, 
fulfils all the criteria for high transitivity in a clause with an expressed object such as 
Ted kicked the ball. It refers to an action (b) in which two participants (A)are involved, 
Agent and Object; it is telic (having an end-point) (c) and is punctual (d). With a human 
subject it is volitional (e) and agentive, while the object will be totally affected (i) and 
individuated (j). The clause is also affirmative (f) and declarative, realis, not hypothetical 
(irrealis) (g). By contrast, with a verb such as see as in Ted saw the accident, most of the 
criteria point to low transitivity, while the verb wish as in / wish you were here includes 
even irrealis (g) in its complement as a feature of low transitivity. Susan leftis interpreted 
as an example of reduced transitivity. Although it has only one participant, it rates higher 
than some two-participant clauses, as it fulfils b, c, d, e, f, g and h. 

high transitivity 

low transitivity 









2 or more participants 


telic (end-point) 





Agent high in potency 

Object totally affected 

Object highly individuated 

1 participant 


atelic (no end-point) 





Agent low in potency 

Object not affected 

Object non-individuated 













































IS "E c 
S-SS o 

2 > I S 
5 -2 " vl 

-CO — o 
U > U Ql 










Agent + Affected 

Force + Affected 


Agent + Affected 


Agent + Affected 


Agent + unactualised Affected 

Agent + Rec. + Affected 

Agent + Ben. + Affected 













Experiencer (non-volitional) + Phenom. 
Experiencer + Phenom. 
Rec. Experiencer + Phenom. 
Phenom. + Rec. Experiencer 
Experiencer + Phenom. (unreal) 






|2 -o 



o o o § 
U U U al 






CO &. 

+ + 

o o 



V) V) 

X X 




1 The Prime Minister resigned 

2 Ted kicked the ball into the net 

3 Lightning struck the oak tree 

4 Jordan slipped on the ice 

5 Pat boiled the water 

6 The water boiled 

7 They're making the road wider. 

8 Glass breaks easily 

9 Do you drive? 

1 1 gave the cat some tuna. 

1 1 Will you fetch me a newspaper? 









1 3 Tom saw the snake. 

14 Tom knows the answer. 

1 5 We were pleased by the news. 

1 6 The news pleased us very much. 
1 7 1 wish you were here. 

1 8 Tom is generous. 
1 9 Tom is the secretary. 

20 The film lasted three hours. 

2 1 Those gloves aren't mine. 



o ° 


o -o 



cm n 


O c 

o o 


a> v) 
■£ o 
^ ro 
c o 

O Q_ 

S | 

o o 

C vi 

o £ 

v) O 


-1= -1= 
1— h- 





















Halliday (1994); Thompson (1996); on relational processes, Davidse (1992), Davidse 
(1996) and Davidse (2000); on Token and Value, Toolan (1992) (together with works 
cited above); on types of 'being' and 'possessing', Langacker (1991). On grammatical 
metaphor and nominalisation: Chafe (1994); Downing (2000); Eggins (1994); Halliday 
(1994); Martin (1992). On object omission, pseudo-intransitives, ergatives, Kilby (1984), 
Martinez Vazquez (1998), Payne (1997). On valency, Payne (1997). On verb classes and 
alternations, Levin (1993). On 'take a sip' etc., Round (1998). On the 'transitivity 
hypothesis', Hopper and Thompson (1980). 


Expressing patterns of experience: Processes, participants, 


Modules 1 3 and 1 4 

1 tldentify each process in the following examples as a process of 'doing' (material), a 
process of 'experiencing' (mental) or a process of 'being' (relational): 

(1) This country exports raw materials. 

(2) I prefer ballet to opera. 

(3) The abbey is now a ruin. 

(4) Do you know the author's name? 

(5) The wounded soldier staggered down the road. 

(6) The weather has turned warm. The days are becoming longer. 

2 tWork out for each of the examples below: 

• the number of inherent participants (the verb's semantic valency) 

• the number of actualised participants in this use 

• whether the verb's valency is reduced in this use 

1 a) She teaches 1 2-year-olds maths. 2) This dog bites. 

1 b) She teaches maths. 

lc) She teaches. 3) Cats purr. 

3 TSay whether it in each of the following clauses refers to a participant or is merely a Subject- 

(1) It rained heavily last night. 

(2) I can lend you ten pounds. Will it be enough? 

(3) Her baby is due next month and she knows it is a girl. 

(4) Where's your bicycle? It's in the garage. 

(5) It's our first wedding anniversary today. 


4 tFill i p the blank space with a suitable Force participant: 

(1 ) As we left the hotel, was blowing off the sea. 

(2) Huge crashed onto the beach and broke against the rocks. 

(3) Several bathers were caught by the incoming and had to be rescued 

by the coastguard patrol. 

(4) Further inland, a usually tranquil broke its banks and flooded the 

surrounding fields. 

(5) In the mountains above the village, campers were surprised by a sudden 

. . . which threatened to engulf their tents. 

5 Write a short paragraph on 'A forest fire', using Force participants and material processes. 

6 tSay whether the italicised nominal group is an Agentive Subject or an Affected Subject: 

(1 ) Beatrice writes black-humour comedies for television. 

(2) The little bird died of cold. 

(3) Angry housewives attacked the striking dustmen with umbrellas. 

(4) Three shop-assistants were sacked by their employer. 

(5) Many buildings collapsed during the earthquake. 

7 tldentify the italicised participant as Affected or Effected: 

(1) He paints surrealist portraits of his friends. 

(2) Don't pick the flowers\ 

(3) In their youth they wrote pop-songs and made fortunes. 

(4) They carve these figures out of wood. 

(5) Engineers are installing a telephone booth. 

Module 15 

1 tSay which of the following clauses are causative and write underneath these the 
corresponding intransitive constructions where appropriate. 

(1 ) The stress of high office ages most Prime Ministers prematurely. 

(2) Smoking can damage your health. 

(3) Swarms of locusts darkened the sky. 

(4) They sprayed the crops with insecticide. 

(5) Pain and worry wrinkled his brow. 


(6) The photographer clicked the camera. 

(7) The truck tipped a load of sand onto the road. 

(8) This year the company has doubled its sales. 

2 TSay whether the participant in the following one-participant situations is acting (Agent), 
is acted upon (Affected) or whether the propensity of the participant to undergo the action 
is being expressed. 

(1) This kind of material creases easily. 

(2) The car broke down. 

(3) Glass recycles well. 

(4) Two of the deputies arrived late. 

(5) He ruled with an iron hand. 

(6) This cream whips up in an instant. 

(7) Peaches won't ripen in this climate. 

3 tExplain the difference in meaning, in terms of participants and processes, and the types 
of relations we have examined, between the following representations: 

(a) Sarah is cooking the rice. 

(b) Sarah is cooking. 

(c) The rice is cooking. 

(d) Sarah cooks beautifully. 

(e) Rice cooks easily. 

(f) Why would you not expect to hear normally 'Sarah cooks easily'? 

4 tComment on the italicised processes in the following quotation from Shakespeare's Antony 
and Cleopatra (Act 2, Scene 2, 1.224): 

Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale 
Her infinite variety: other women cloy 
The appetites they feed, but she makes hungry 
Where most she satisfies. 

5 Imagine you are a copy-writer for a well-known cosmetic firm. You are told to write a 
brochure for a new range of cosmetics. Include in your description causative verbs such 
as soften, whiten, lighten, lessen, tighten, freshen, refresh, cleanse, smooth, moisturise and/ 
or SPOdCo structures containing make or leave and an Attribute. 

6 With the help of a good dictionary, draw up a list of verbs that can be used in ergative 
pairs and compare them with their equivalents in another language. 


Module 16 

1 "(Identify the italicised participant as Recipient or Beneficiary: 

(1 ) Don't forget to send us a postcard. 

(2) My brother-in-law has been offered a job analysing mud for an oil company. 

(3) Can I get you something to eat? 

(4) I think Sammy would like you to buy him an ice-cream. 

(5) How much do we owe your parents for the tickets? 

Module 1 7 

1 "["Identify each of the processes in the main clauses of the following sentences as one of 
perception, cognition or affectivity. Say whether the Phenomenon is an entity, a fact or a 

(1) He recognised a group of fellow Americans by their accent. 

(2) Yesterday I saw a mouse in the supermarket. 

(3) The miner knew he wouldn't see the light of day again for many hours. 

(4) Most people hate going to the dentist. 

(5) Did you watch the World Cup Final on television? 

(6) He wondered whether he had heard correctly. 

(7) He could hardly believe that what had happened to him was true. 

(8) With a cold like this I can't taste what I'm eating. 

2 tWrite an alternative construction for each of the following clauses so that Experiencer is 
made to coincide with Subject, as in (b) below: 

(a) The news delighted us. 

(b) We were delighted with the news. 

(1 ) Neither of the proposals pleased the members of the commission. 

(2) His presence of mind amazed us. 

(3) The dramatic increase of crime in the cities is alarming the government. 

(4) The fact that she seems unable to lose weight worries her. 

(5) Will the fact that you forgot to phone annoy your wife? 


Module 18 

la tldentify the types of 'being' and the participants in the following relational processes 1-8. 
lb t Assign Token and Value to the participants in 7 and 8. 

(1 ) The dormouse is a small rodent related to the mouse. 

(2) The dormouse is famous for its drowsiness and long winter sleep. 

(3) The Dormouse is one of the characters in Alice in Wonderland. 

(4) I felt quite nervous all through the interview. 

(5) I haven't any change, I'm afraid. 

(6) The concert will be in the sports stadium at nine o'clock. 

(7) Food is the supreme national symbol. 

(8) What we call civilisation or culture represents only a fraction of human history. [BNC 
hrm 433] 

2 |Add a suitable Attribute or circumstance to each of the following clauses and say whether 
it is current or resulting: 

(1) After wandering around in circles for more than an hour, we ended up 

(2) Keep your money in this special travelling wallet. 

(3) Growing coffee proved to be more than they had expected. 

(4) Stand while I bandage your hand. 

(5) Feel to do as you like. 

3 Below are two opposite opinions on the effects of television on viewers: (a) the opinion of 
an art specialist, and (b) that of a psychologist. Elaborate on one of these opinions, 
expressing your opinion of television programmes by at least a proportion of relational 

(a) Watching television easily becomes a compulsive and addictive occupation, unlike 
watching ballet or looking at pictures. 

(b) Our children are neither bored nor stultified; all of us need to dream the same 
daydream until we have had our fill of it . . . and the more frustrating reality is for 
us, the greater is our need. 

Module 19 

1 tComplete each of the following sentences containing verbal processes and say whether 
the result is a reported statement, a reported question or a reported directive: 

(1) Mounted policemen urged the crowd 

(2) This notice says 

(3) The usher at the House of Commons explained 

(4) Let's enquire at the information desk 

(5) I have asked the nightwatchman 

(6) You'd better not tell the children 

(7) A voice over the loudspeaker announced 

(8) Recent reports from the north confirm 


2a Add a suitable Existent to each of the following existential clauses and say whether your 
Existent represents a countable entity, a non-countable entity or an event: 

(1) There appeared on the horizon 

(2) There was and all the lights went out. 

(3) There's in the next village, where you can get quite a good meal. 

(4) On the floor there lay 

(5) Just opposite the cinema there's you can send an email from there. 

(6) There's no to lose; the taxi will be here in five minutes. 

2b tin which of the clauses in 2 could ffiere be omitted and why? 

3 tLook at The Lost Girl text on p. 154 and identify which Existents are introduced by 
existential ffiere and which are not. How are these others introduced? What appears to 
be the main conditioning factor? Is quantification important for distinguishing the two types? 

4 Add expansions of three types (locative, attributive, clausal) to each of the following 

(1 ) There was a plane 

(2) There were a few members 

(3) There's nothing 

5 Study the text in 1 8.4 (p. 1 48) and then write a paragraph describing one of the following: 

(1 ) The house of a friend who collects objects from all over the world. 

(2) A carnival. 

Use existential clauses with different types of expansion and omit ffiere sometimes. 

Module 20 

1 tldentify the italicised circumstantial element in each of the following: 

(1 ) Trains to Lancing run every twenty minutes in off-peak periods. 

(2) It's supposed to be quicker by first-class mail. 

(3) In spite of the forecast for storms, they set off in a rowing-boat to cross the lake. 

(4) Someone may have done it ouf of spite. 

(5) Payments must be made by the end of the month. 

(6) The horse show was cancelled on account of the epidemic. 

(7) As a do-it-yourself decorator, I'm not the most enterprising. 

(8) As for the dog, he'll have to go to a kennels for a month. 

2 tSay which of the following italicised items is Instrument, which is Means and which Range: 

(1 ) They blocked the road with dustbins. 

(2) We crossed ffie Channel by ferry. 


(3) Rita and Pam had a fierce quarrel. 

(4) She managed to open the suitcase with a hairpin. 

(5) They lead a quiet life. 

Module 21 

1 |Give a possible basic form for each of the following sentences. Comment on the semantico- 
syntactic changes involved in the nominalised form here. Provide a translation into another 
language of the 'metaphorical' (i.e. more nominalised) form, if possible. 

(1) We had a long chat. 

(2) Bombing continued throughout the night. 

(3) Canada saw the launch of a 50-day election campaign last weekend. 

(4) His obvious intelligence and exceptional oratory won him [Franz Josef Strauss] a 
place in Konrad Adenauer's 1951 cabinet as minister without portfolio. 

(5) The release came after rising expectations in Washington throughout the day that 
Professor Steen, aged 48, would be the hostage to be freed. 

2 Revision exercises: turn to the extract of an interview with Kirsty Ackland on p. 89. 

(1) On some paper, make out separate columns to fill in each type of process, such as 
mental processes of perception, cognition and affectivity. Make a column for 
problematic processes. 

(2) Go through the text again, assigning each process with its participants to a column, 
Include ellipted participants when these are clearly understood. List the circum- 
stantials. Make a numerical or statistical count of the number of instances of each 
type of process. List them in order of frequency. 

(3) Which type of process is the most frequent? Do you find this surprising? Which 
aspects of her life is Kirsty most concerned with? What do you think this tells us 
about the speaker? Would a dialogue in which you took part, on the same subject, 
be similar? 

(4) Read the article on the transitivity hypothesis (in Hopper and Thompson 1 980) and 
try to apply the criteria to some of the examples in exercise 21.1. 

3 Do you find that instances of grammatical metaphor and nominalisation in the sentences 
tend to be high rather than low, or conversely, low rather than high in transitivity? Can 
you explain the reasons for your conclusion? (You may want to check up first on the 
aspectual distinctions discussed in 42.2.) 




Linking speech acts and grammar 

Module 22: Speech acts and clause types 1 76 

22.1 The basic correspondences 177 

22.2 Direct and indirect speech acts: what the utterance 'counts as' 1 78 

Module 23: The declarative and interrogative clause types 1 80 

23.1 Clause types and the mood element: Subject-Finite variation 1 81 

23.2 The declarative clause type 181 

23.3 Interrogative clauses, negation and the do- operator 182 

23.4 Yes/ 'no interrogatives and their responses 1 83 

23.5 Alternative interrogatives 185 

23.6 W/i- interrogatives 185 

23.7 Double interrogatives: questions within questions 186 

23.8 Question tags 187 

23.9 Features of the main types of tag 187 

23.10 Invariant question tags 189 

Module 24: The exclamative and imperative clause types 1 90 

24.1 The exclamative 191 

24.2 The imperative 191 

24.2.1 The verb in the imperative 193 

24.2.2 Negative and emphatic imperatives 194 

24.2.3 Let's and lef us 194 

24.3 Verbless and freestanding subordinate clauses 1 95 

24.4 The subjunctive in English 196 

Module 25: Indirect speech acts, clause types and 

discourse functions 1 97 

25.1 Performatives and the declarative 197 

25.2 Exclamations 199 

Module 26: Questions, clause types and discourse functions 201 

26.1 Rhetorical questions 201 

26.2 Questions as preliminaries 201 

26.3 Some, any and negative forms in biased questions 202 

26.4 Biased declaratives with attitudinal markers 203 

Module 27: Directives: getting people to carry out actions 205 

27.1 Directives and the imperative 205 

27.2 The discourse functions of let's imperatives 207 

27.3 Politeness in directives 207 

27.4 Modalised interrogatives as polite directives 208 

27.5 Declaratives as directives 208 

27.6 Indirectness, impoliteness and confrontation 209 

27.7 Clause types and illocutionary force: summary table 210 

27.7.1 Clause combinations 211 

Further reading 212 

Exercises 2 1 3 




1 Speech acts are the acts we perform through words. Certain general types of 
speech act are basic to everyday interaction; these are statements, questions, 
exclamations and directives, the latter covering orders, requests and instructions 
among others. 

2 Each of these basic speech acts is associated in the grammar with a type of 
clause: the declarative is typically used to encode a statement, the interrogative 
a question, the imperative a directive and the exclamative an exclamation. 
These are the direct correspondences between form and function that we refer 
to as direct speech acts. 

3 Indirect correspondences are also common in English. Thus declaratives, as 
well as encoding statements, can be used to ask questions, utter exclamations 
and issue directives, in addition to other speech acts such as promising and 
warning. In such cases the form is used to convey an 'illocutionary force', or 
intended meaning, that is different from its basic one. You're staying here, then? 
has the form of a declarative - but, with appropriate intonation, the force is that 
of a question, as is indicated by the punctuation. The relationship between 
clause type and force is therefore not one-to-one but many-to-many. 

4 Even more indirectly, the words we use do not always express the full 
illocutionary force of our intended speech act. For example, It's cold in here 
might be intended, and interpreted, as a request to turn up the heating. Hearers 
use inference to recover the intended meaning at specific points in a 
conversation, based on assumptions of cooperativeness, truth, relevance and 
cultural knowledge. 


When we speak or write to each other, we perform acts through words, such as thanking 
and promising. These are 'speech acts'. Certain general types of speech act are very 
basic, in that most, if not all, languages have ways of representing them by means of 
the grammar. These are statements, questions, exclamations and directives. 

These basic speech acts are encoded in the grammar in the system of clause types 
or moods, as shown in the diagram below. The indicative is the grammatical category 
typically used for the exchange of information, in contrast to the imperative, which 
grammaticalises our acting on others to get things done by requesting, ordering and so 
on. The exclamative grammaticalises the expression of emotion. 






Polar [yes/no] 

non-polar [wh-] 


Interrogative clauses can be either polar (yes/ no interrogatives) or non-polar (wh- 
interrogatives). These are discussed in Module 23. 

The basic correspondences between clause types and speech acts are summarised 
as follows: 

Clause type 

Basic speech act 



making a statement 

You are careful. 

Interrogative [yes/no) 

asking a question 

Are you careful? 

Interrogative [wh-) 

asking a question 

How careful are you? 


making an exclamation 

How careful you are! 


issuing a directive 

Be careful! 

The traditional term 'command' is nowadays applicable only in contexts of great 
inequality and power such as the military. The term directive is used instead in 
everyday environments, to cover such acts as requests, prohibitions and instructions, 
as well as orders and commands. 



It is important to separate the concepts of statement, question and directive, which are 
semantic-pragmatic categories of meaning in use, from the grammatical categories of 
declarative, interrogative and imperative, which are typically associated with them. When 
a clause type is used to carry out the speech act typically associated with it, it is 
considered to be a direct speech act. Thus, in a direct speech act the declarative is said 
to have the illocutionary force of a statement, an interrogative has the force of a 
question, an imperative has the force of a directive, and an exclamative has the force of 
an exclamation. The force is the speaker's 'intended meaning' at that particular point in 
the discourse. The table above shows this basic or typical correspondence between the 
two sets of categories; and in the following invented dialogue based on an advertisement, 
each clause type in the independent clauses realises its typical speech act: 

Is that you Brad? 1 Simon here. 

Hi, Simon. 

Did the board reach a conclusion? 2 

They've decided to launch the product, 3 if the terms are right. 

How do ours compare? 4 

Very well. But are you sure you can put up the necessary capital? 5 

We've got a massive loan from the Bank of England. 6 

In that case, let's go. 7 

Have we got the deal, then? 8 

You've got it. 9 

Fantastic. How soon do you expect to be able to sign? 10 

'interrog. /question; 2 interrog./question; 3 declar./statement; 4 interrog. /question; 
5 interrog. /question; 6 declar./statement; 7 imper./directive; 8 interrog./question; 
'declar./statement; ' "interrog. /question 

In interpersonal interaction, however, the relationship is frequently more complex - and 
more flexible. Every clause type can carry out different speech acts. When a clause type 
has any other but its typical force, we consider it an indirect speech act. That is, it 
'counts as' an act different from its typical correspondence. 

We can rewrite one of the executives' utterances so that the correspondence between 
gramatical form and its function is no longer direct: 

So we've got the deal, then? (declarative which 'counts' as a question) 

Looking at it the other way round, our new version of this utterance still 'counts as' a 
question, as in the original text, even though it's expressed by a different clause type. 
Even more indirectly, the words we use do not always express the full meaning of our 
intended act, as we can see in the following familiar situational dialogue: 


A. The door-bell's ringing. 

B. I'm in the bath. 
A. Okay, I'll go. 

A's first utterance is to be interpreted as a directive to B: 'Answer the door'. B's utterance 
counts as a statement explaining why she can't answer the door ('I'm in the bath'), at 
the same time implying that A should answer the door. A's second utterance shows that 
he has inferred the implied request and will comply with it. Notice that neither 
participant has made specific reference to answering the door. 

In this chapter we will be more concerned with the first type of indirect corre- 
spondence, the relationship between grammatical form and pragmatic meaning. 
In interpersonal interaction, however, especially in conversation, the second type - 'not 
saying exactly what you mean' and expecting the addressee to infer your meaning - is 
also extremely common in English. 

The motivation for using indirect speech acts is often that of tact, politeness or simply 
economy of effort. Assuming that speakers are cooperative and make their utterances 
relevant, hearers use inference in order to recover the intended meaning. For instance, 
a colleague's question on leaving the office Have you come by car today? may lead the 
addressee to infer that the colleague is politely requesting to be given a lift. Inference 
is also based on cultural knowledge, for example, that people who have cars often give 
lifts to those who don't. 

In inferring the speaker's meaning, the situational context is all-important, as is the 
relationship between speaker and hearer. In different situations, or at different points 
in a conversation, any one utterance may take on a different pragmatic force. If an 
explosion has just been heard in the car-park, Have you come by car today? will suggest 
a very different intended meaning, perhaps that of a warning, or a suggestion to go and 
see what has happened. As in other areas of the grammar, a form can fulfil more than 
one function, and a function can be fulfilled by more than one form. 

It is not always possible to make a clear-cut distinction between one type of indirect 
speech act and another. Sit over here by me may be a request or an invitation, or a 
combination of the two. Similarly, Simon's response We've got a massive loan from the 
Bank of England is at once a statement and an assurance in answer to Brad's somewhat 
anxious question. This indeterminacy of pragmatic meaning is not, in general, a dis- 
advantage, as it allows the interlocutors in a situation to negotiate the outcome of any 
one utterance as they go along. 





1 Syntactically, the five clause types are distinguished in English by the presence 
or absence of Subject and the ordering of Subject (S) and a finite verb (F). The 
rest of the clause remains the same. The Finite is realised by a primary verb 
(am, is, are, was, were, has, had), a modal verb [can, must, etc.) or a tensed 
lexical verb [sells, sold, etc.), and is the first or only element of the verbal group. 

2 The declarative is the basic clause type, with Subject-Finite ordering (It is ready, 
I can swim, Ice melts). Interrogative and negative clauses in English require 
a finite operator. The primary verbs be and fiave, and the modal verbs (can, 
will, etc.) function as finite operators, carrying inversion (Is it ready? Can you 
swim?), polarity (the positive-negative distinction) -as in It is ready vs It isn't 
ready- and emphasis (/ am ready). If there is no primary or modal verb in 
the clause, a form of do is used as operator [Does she smoke? She doesn't 
smoke) . 

3 Interrogative structures in English are of two main types: yes/ no (polar) and wh- 
(non-polar), the latter with a preceding v/fi-element. Both have Finite-Subject 
ordering except when Who is Subject (Who said that?). A subtype, the 
alternative interrogative, consists of two polar interrogatives joined by or (Do 
you want it or don't you?). The wh- words ending in - ever act as intensifiers 
( Whatever do you mean?), as do more colloquial items ( What the devil . . .). 

4 Echo questions repeat all or part of a previous speaker's utterance (We leave 
at 5 a.m. -5a.m?). Double interrogatives consist of one interrogative embedded 
within another (Do you know what time it is?), the answer being pragmatically 

5 Abbreviated clauses (/ can't, Is it?) are independent ellipted clauses based on 
Subject-operator and operator- Subject patterns. They are commonly used as 
short interactive responses after questions, statements, exclamations and 


Question tags are also abbreviated yes/no interrogatives. They are not 
independent, but appended to a main clause. There are two types, reversed 
and constant, distinguished by polarity, appendibility and, in part, intonation. 
Invariant tags include right, okay and - for some speakers - innit, the latter 
often socially stigmatised. Like other ellipted forms, tags are an important 
interactive device in spoken English. 


In English, the declarative, interrogative and imperative moods of a clause are 
distinguished syntactically by variation in one part of the clause, called the mood 
element, while the rest of the predicate, sometimes called the residue, remains 
unchanged. The elements of structure which together form the mood element are 
Subject (S) and Finite (F). Variation consists in the presence or absence of Subject and 
the ordering of the two elements, as summarised in the table below. These different 
syntactic variations are referred to as 'clause types': 

Clause type 





Jane sings. 

Interrogative (yes/no) 

Finite + Subject 

Does Jane sing? 

Interrogative (wh-) 

wh + Finite + Subject 

What does Jane sing? 


wh + Subject + Finite 

How well Jane sings! 


no subject, base form 
of verb 



The declarative is the basic clause type, with Subject-Finite ordering, as in: 




1 We 



again tomorrow. 

[BNC AON 1644] 

2 You 



a holiday. 

[BNC AYP 47] 

The Finite, meaning specified for tense or modality, is always the first or only element 
of a verbal group (see also chapters 1 and 8). It is realised by either a verbal operator 
(is, can, has, etc.), as in 1 and 2, or a tensed (past or present) form of the lexical verb, 
as in 4 and 5. The primary verbs function both as operators 1 and as main verbs 3: 


Subject Finite/Predicator 




late again. 








fish and chips here. 

More exactly, in positive declarative clauses, Finite and Predicator fuse in the present 
and past tensed forms of lexical verbs and of be and have when used as main verbs. The 
operator is always realised by a verb: primary, modal or do, as explained and illustrated 
in 3.1. 

The Finite element relates the proposition to a point of reference: either a time 
reference, by tense, or the speaker's judgement by means of modality, as discussed in 
chapters 8 and 9. 


In interrogative clauses, the Finite verb precedes the Subject, the rest remaining the 

Finite Subject Predicator 




again tomorrow? 




a holiday? 




us soon? 




to Australia after all? 

When no operator is already available in the clause, a form of do (do, does, did) is brought 
in as a dummy operator. That is, it has no semantic value but simply fulfils the syntactic 
requirement of 'finite operator' (see 3. 1 . 1), as illustrated in the last three examples. The 
functions of the operators that interest us here are, first, that they signal by position that 
the clause is interrogative, and second, they carry polarity, that is, they are either 
positive or negative. This positive-negative contrast is an essential semantic feature 
associated with finiteness. In order to be affirmed or denied, a proposition has to be 
either positive or negative. 

Negation, as we saw in 3.2, is usually expressed by the negative particle not, which 
follows the operator or is joined to it as n't. Note that the negative interrogative with 1st 
person singular T is not *amn'tbut aren't in Standard English. Other exceptions include 
can't, won't and shan't. (Operators also function in question tags, both positive and 
negative, as illustrated here and discussed with further examples shortly. See also 
Chapter 8.) 

Subject Finite Predicator 




doesn 't 

be going 



home for lunch, 
right, does it? 
bibles, do you? 

[bnc kny 251] 
[BNC FUL 178] 
[BNC C86 2553] 


Negative-interrogative forms (see also Chapter 1) are illustrated as follows: 
Finite Subject Predicator 

Won't you be going home for lunch? 

Don't you sell bibles? 

The do forms can be used to add emphasis with lexical verbs in the declarative: 

Subject Finite Predicator 

They do sell them 

You do know about that, don't you? [bnc h9w 1033] 

Interrogative clauses typically occur in interpersonal situations, and their direct speech- 
act function or force is to ask for information. There are two main types of interrogative, 
the yes/ no type and the w/i-type. The examples we have seen so far are of the yes/ no 


In the yes/no type it is only the polarity that is in question. The speaker asks for 
confirmation or denial of the clause content, to be expressed by yes or no. Such minimal 
replies often sound rather curt, however: 


Do you sell fish fingers? 




At all? You don't? [bnc kbc 717-721] 

(B's first response overlaps with A's question; B's reply might be): 


You can get them from the supermarket. 

A feature of spoken English is the use of ellipted responses such as Yes, it is, No, we don % 
I can't, has he? based on the Subject-operator (declarative) and operator-Subject 
(interrogative) patterns. These are independent abbreviated clauses. They are used 
in response to questions, statements, exclamations and directives. They show more 
interest and involvement than a mere Yes or No, and even more than mere silence! In 
conversation they keep the talk alive by passing the turn from one speaker to another: 

A. Always drunk isn't he? 

B. He's a sweet old man though. 

A. Is he? 

B. Gets me nice birthday presents. 

A. Does he? 

B. Mm. [BNC 3503-3507] 


Another way of responding is by an echo question. This repeats part, or sometimes 
all, of an immediately preceding utterance by another speaker. The motivation for using 
echoes is that the hearer did not comprehend, found difficult to believe, or did not hear 
properly what had been said: 

I'm going to sell my golf clubs. Sell them? 

What did you say to him? What did I say to him? 

In interactive situations, in fact, a wide range of responses occurs, as speakers often 
express greater or less certainty about the proposition: 

Have you got any stamps? 

No, I don't think I have, in fact I know I haven't. [bnc kcx 3771-3772] 

In the following extract from Harold Pinter's Applicant an eager applicant for a job is 
asked a great many unexpected questions by the interviewer Miss Piffs. All her questions 
are of the yes/ no type, yet few are in fact answered by yes or no. The applicant Lamb 
shows his perplexity and surprise by responding in a variety of ways: 


Would you say you were an excitable person? 



Not - unduly, no. Of course, 1 - 



Would you say you were a moody person? 



Moody? No, 1 wouldn't say 1 was moody - well, sometimes 

occasionally 1 - 



Do you ever get fits of depression? 



Well, 1 wouldn't call them depression exactly. 



Do you often do things you regret in the morning? 



Regret? Things 1 regret? Well, it depends what you mean by 

often, really - 1 mean when you say often - 



Are you often puzzled by women? 









Men? Well, 1 was just going to answer the question about 

women - 



Do you often feel puzzled? 






By women. 









Oh now, just a minute 1 ... Do you want separate answers 

or a joint answer? 




Alternative interrogatives also start with an operator, like the yes/ no type, but yes or 
no is no longer an appropriate answer. Instead, one of the two alternatives presented in 
the question is expected to be chosen, but again, variants are possible, as shown in B's 

A. Do you study for enjoyment or to advance your career? 

B. - For enjoyment 

- To advance my career 

[BNC BNA 1630] 


Wft-interrogatives contain an element of missing information which is embodied in the 
w/2-word. What the speaker is seeking in this type of interrogative is the identity of that 
element. The rest is presupposed, that is, taken as given. For instance, What do you want? 
presupposes that you want something. The wA-word can fill a syntactic function of the 
clause or be part of a group or phrase. 

Wh-Mvord Finite Subject 

Syntactic function 










(complement of a prep.) 











Whose dog 



(determinative in NG) 











How old 




How long 



known him? 





do that? 




you most 

enjoyed working? 

(A) [BNC BNA 28496] 

There is one exception to the Finite-Subject order in wA-interrogative clauses. This is 
when the w^-element itself functions as subject or as part of a NG at subject: 


Which glass 




you that? 

(determinative in NG) 

The functional motivation for the ordering of interrogatives in English is that whatever 
is questioned comes first. If it is the polarity that is questioned, the finite operator comes 
first. If it is the identity of an unknown element, a w/!-element comes first, followed by 
the Finite-Subject ordering. If the unknown element is the Subject, that (in the form of 
a wA-element), comes first. 


This means that, basically, the entire interrogative system in English has Finite- 
Subject ordering, except when the Subject's identity is itself questioned. 

Note that, in some languages, interrogative inversion is that of the Subject and the 
whole verbal group, as in Spanish iHa llegado Pedro? We must be aware that this 
variation is ungrammatical in English (*Has arrived Peter?), except with primary verbs 
(be and have) in simple tenses. Compare: Has Peter a bicycle? is possible, but *Has had 
Peter lunch? is ungrammatical. Furthermore, certain languages rely on intonation to 
express a question, using only the declarative form. This is also possible in English (see 
26.4) but it does not regularly replace the use of the interrogative structures. 

The following dialogue between two friends illustrates declarative clauses and the 
two main interrogative types. Finite elements are italicised: 

So what did you do at the weekend, Janet? 

Well, Jeff and I went off to Whitby to visit our in-laws. We took the dog with us and 
we all ended up having a walk along the beach. 

Can you walk right along the cliffs to Robin Hood's Bay? 

I think you probably could do, but it's quite dangerous. You can get through 
occasionally when the tide's out, but it doesn't stay out for very long and you can get 

(authors' data) 

The wA-interrogative words sometimes combine with the word -ever, which acts as an 
intensifier expressing the surprise, perplexity or disbelief of the speaker. Why ever is 
often spelt as two words, the other items as either one or two: 

Whoever would believe such a story? 

Wherever did you hear that? 

Why ever didn't he let us know he was coming? 

Besides the -ever combinations, wA-interrogative words can be intensified informally by 
certain lexical items which include on earth, in the world, and other more marked 
colloquialisms including semi-taboo words, such as the devil, the hell. 

Why on earth didn't you get in touch? 

Ellie! Where the hell have you been? (Girls Out Late) 

See 3.1 and 26.3 for negative-interrogatives. 


A wA-interrogative can be embedded as a constituent of a polar interrogative, in which 
case the w/2-interrogative has the order of a declarative clause, as in Do you know what 


time it is? rather than *Do you know what time is it? (see also Chapter 3). There are two 
questions involved in this case: (a) the polarity of the main clause, in this example 
whether the addressee knows the answer to the w/2-question; and (b) the content 
embodied in the wh-element. The intention of the speaker, together with the context, 
will 'weight' one or other in importance. For example, if the addressee is slowly packing 
a suitcase to catch a train shortly, (a) 'knowing the time' is likely to be more important. 
On the other hand, if the speaker's watch has stopped, (b) 'the time is x' is likely to be 
of greater interest to the speaker. The force is different too. In (a) Do you know what time 
it is? has the force of a polite reminder, while in (b) it will be interpreted as a request. 


Question tags are not independent clauses, but they do require a response, and are 
highly interactive. Structurally, tags are abbreviated yes/ no interrogatives consisting of 
an operator (either positive or negative) and a pronoun, which repeats the subject or 
substitutes for it. Question tags are attached to one of the following clause types: 

a declarative clause: It was quiet in there, wasn't it? 

an exclamative clause: How quiet it was in there, wasn't it? 

an imperative clause: Be quiet for a moment, will you? 

Of these, the declarative is by far the most common. The tag is usually placed at the 
end 1-5, but sometimes in the middle 6: 

1 Ben is in South Africa, isn 't he? 

2 He isn't with Gordon, is he? 

3 You live in Hammersmith, don't you? 

4 You don't live in Chelsea, do you? 

5 It doesn't really matter, does if? 

6 It's easy, isn't it, to get into the habit? 


There are two main types of declarative mood tag, distinguished by polarity sequence. 
Type 1 tag has opposite polarity to that of the main clause. That is, if the main clause 
is positive, the tag is negative, and vice versa, as in the examples so far. 

There is either rising or falling intonation on the tag. A rising tone on the tag 
indicates doubt, and so the meaning is 'Am I right?' If however the intonation is falling, 
it expresses greater certainty, so that the meaning of the tag is more like 'I'm asking 
you to confirm this' and simply seeks agreement. 

The Type 2 tag has constant polarity, that is, the same as the main clause. It occurs 
mostly in combinations of positive declarative clauses with positive tags. Type 2 tags 
typically have a rising tone on the tag, and the statement is often preceded by a discourse 


marker, such as Oh, So or Well now, which indicates that the speaker is expressing a 
conclusion or inference drawn from the situation or from what has been said before. 
The effect is often emotive and can either express an agreeable surprise or else sound 
pejorative, depending on the implication. 

Oh, so you're the new assistant, are you? 
Oh so that's what she said, is it? 
Well now, this is the Norman chapel, is if? 
You found the address, did you? 

The following extract, from James Saunders' play Over the Wall, parodies a doctor's 
questioning of a patient, who is not allowed time to reply: 

Falling hair, loss of weight, gain of weight, tenseness, got a drink problem have you, 
smoking too much, hallucinations, palpitations, eructations, on drugs are you, can 
you read the top line, overdoing it at work perhaps, worrying about the work, about 
the spouse, about where to go for your holiday, about the mortgage, about the value 
of the pound, about the political situation, about your old mother, about the kids, 
kids playing up are they, not doing well at school, got a drink problem have they, 
smoking, on drugs are they, suffering from loss of weight, falling hair, got any 
worries have you? 


In both types of question tag, the pronoun in the tag is co-referential with the subject, 
and the operator, not the pronoun, carries the tonic stress. 

There is a third, less common but very useful variant, illustrated by the following 

Ooh! I love squirrels, don't you? [bnc kbw 12683-12684] 

Here the pronouns are not co-referential. The sentence subject is invariably / and that 
of the tag, you. It is you, not the operator, that carries the tonic stress, marking a contrast 
with the 1st person, the speaker. The tag invites the addressee to agree or disagree with 
the speaker's opinion. 

When an embedded clause that encodes the main propositional content of the 
sentence is introduced by a clausal fragment such as / think or / suppose expressing 
epistemic stance, the tag refers to the embedded clause, not to the clausal fragment (see 
also 36.2). The stance expression can be placed parenthetically: 

/ think he left before lunch, didn't he? (not * don't T?) 
(He left, / think, before lunch, didn't he?) 


/ suppose you'd prefer a cold drink, wouldn 't you? (not *don 't 1?) 
(You'd prefer a cold drink, I suppose, wouldn't you?) 

Indefinite human singular pronouns take they in the tag: 

Everybody seemed to enjoy themselves, didn't they? 
Nobody will agree to that, will they? 
Somebody should be told, shouldn't they? 

The discourse function of tags following declaratives is to seek confirmation or agree- 
ment with the previous statement and to keep the conversation going. Tags are questions 
and so require an answer. They enable the speaker to elicit a response from the 
hearer, where a tagless declarative or imperative would not necessarily achieve this end. 
Together with abbreviated clauses and fragments as short responses, tags provide the 
main structural-functional devices for furthering speaker-hearer involvement. 

With certain speech act functions, such as good wishes and warnings, a question tag 
is not used. Instead, other forms such as the following are used, in which the adverbs 
do not have their normal ideational value: 

See you later, then! Have a good journey, then! 

That plate is hot, mind Look out, there! Come on, now! 


Invariant tags are those such as Right? 1 and okay?, which are not derived from the 
structure of the main clause. A form which is spreading rapidly is innit. This was 
originally derived from isn't it, and is used in popular, non-standard speech as a tag 
appended to a declarative 2, 3. In the vernacular it is also used as a negative 
interrogative main verb and a question tag, in the same sentence 4. Furthermore, in 
some communities it is becoming a generalised tag used in environments other than 
those containing the operator is 5. In this respect, innit is like right and okay, although 
less generally accepted than they are. 

1 Getting over a cold, right? [bnc kbf 13393] 

2 It's a nice pattern innit? [bnc kb8 7338] 

3 Oh it's cold innit? [bnc ke3 8928] 

4 Ah innit lovely innit? [bnc kbe 9639] 

5 You know our life story innit? [bnc kcs 1718] 

Like other tags, innit? seeks confirmation or agreement from the addressee. Right and 
okay, however, also function (like all right) as responses indicating agreement or 
compliance 6, and also as discourse markers to call attention and initiate an action 7: 

6 ... whenever you want to read there, you can do that. 

Okay right right. [bnc kcv 0941-0942] 

7 Right, er, let's have a look then [bnc kb3 1867] 





1 Exclamative clauses open with a wh- element what or how, followed by a NG 
or adjective/adverb, respectively. Like the declarative, they have Subject-Finite 
ordering. Exclamative what is a determinative [What a mess!), while how 
functions as a degree adverb (How strange it was!), unlike pronominal what 
and manner adverb how in wh- interrogatives (What is it? How is she?). They 
are used to make exclamative statements. 

2 The imperative consists of the base form of the verb alone, without modals, tense 
or aspect (Stop!). This can be preceded by the negative form don't or emphatic 
do. There is no overt subject, but a 2nd person subject (stressed you) can be 
added, usually for purposes of contrast with another person (You sit down and 
I'll stand). Somebody, everybody, nobody can also be used and, like you, refer 
to the addressee(s). These, and other forms, can also be used as vocatives. A 
polite clause tag is will you? Let's is the imperative particle used for a 1 st person 
imperative, typically suggesting a joint action. It is to be distinguished from the 
lexical verb let, from which it derived. The unmarked function of imperatives is 
to issue a directive. 

3 Reduced clauses are extremely common in spoken English and fulfil an important 
interactive function. They include abbreviated clauses (basically S-F or F-S in 
structure) that function independently, question tags, verbless clauses of various 
degrees of ellipsis, echoes, and freestanding subordinate clauses (which it does). 
In this module we refer mainly to the typical speech act associated with each 
clause type. 

4 The subjunctive is not a clause type but a verb form. It remains outside the system 
of clause types and has a very limited use in British English, rather more in 
American English. 



The exclamative clause type starts with a wh- word, either the determinative what, 
followed by a nominal group or the degree adverb how and an adjective, adverb or 

Wh- element 

What a shock they'll have! 

What a mess we've got ourselves into! [BNCG0J4081] 

What a lot of interference there is! [on the telephone] 

How dark it is! 

How it snowed! 

Exclamatives have the Subject-Finite ordering that is characteristic of the declarative, 
and the element following the wh- word is a clause constituent which has been brought 
to the front of the clause. For these reasons exclamative clauses are sometimes con- 
sidered as an emotive element superimposed on the declarative rather than as a distinct 

The declarative clauses corresponding to these examples are as follows: 

They'll have a shock. 

We've got ourselves into a mess. 

It is dark. 

It snowed. 

//ow-exclamative clauses sound somewhat theatrical nowadays, especially when 
followed by an adverb (How well he played!). More commonly heard than clausal 
exclamatives in everyday spoken English are abbreviated noun-headed or adjective- 
headed forms: 

What a mess! What a surprise! What a nightmare! 

What a player! What very sad news! How exciting! 

Oh great! Big deal! Fantastic! (see also 25.2) 

Embedded (or indirect) exclamatives occur regularly in both spoken and written English. 
We refer to them in 1 1.3.4 under wh- complements, and simply illustrate them here: 

You wouldn't believe how badly the prisoners were treated. 


The most striking feature of an imperative clause is that it requires no overt Subject in 
English. In this it differs sharply from the other clause types: 

Be careful! 

Come on! Hurry up! 


The subject is pragmatically understood to be the addressee, and this is confirmed by 
the presence of a reflexive pronoun (yourself , yourselves) 1, a question tag (will you) 2 or 
by a vocative (you, you people, you guys, used to address women as well as men) 3, 6. 
Stressed you positioned immediately before the imperative is usually interpreted as 
subject, and is typically used to mark a contrast with the speaker or a 3rd person 4. 
Subject and vocative are less distinct when realised by someone 7, everyone, or a NG 
such as passengers on flight IB580 to Vigo 8 preceding the verb. They could be either 
subject or vocative, or even merge. Both are optional and both refer to the addressees, 
representing either all or a sub-set of those persons present in the speech situation. 
When placed in final position 1, a pronoun or NG would normally be considered a 

1 Help yourselves, everyone 1 . 

2 Be quiet, will you\ 

3 Shut up, you twol 

4 You stay here and I'll get the tickets. 

5 Hey, Helena, calm down! [bnc kce 1507] 

6 Come on, you guys, the shops will be shutting soon. (Girls Out Late) 

7 Someone call an ambulance! 

8 Passengers on flight number IB580 to Vigo please proceed to gate number 17. 

Vocatives are able to occupy various positions, typically final 3, but also medial 6 and 
initial, often preceded by an attention-getter 5. Common vocatives are first names, 
Johnny, Pat, kinship names Mum/ Mom, Grandad, endearments darling, love, honey, pet, 
pronoun you + noun you guys, surnames and titles, Mr Roberts, and (now less common) 
honorifics madam, sir. Vocatives fulfil important interpersonal functions in getting some- 
one's attention, singling out one individual among a group and maintaining relationships, 
either of a close or friendly nature or, less commonly nowadays, marking distance and 

As these examples illustrate, imperatives typically encode directives, which range 
from orders 2, 3 to encouragement 6, urgent request 7, invitation 1 and instructions 8 
(see also 27.1). 

The following exchange between two women friends was overheard on the London 
Underground when a seat became vacant. Two functions of you occur; as subject of an 
imperative and as vocative after an imperative: 

Aj Sit down! 

B 2 No, you sit down! 

A 3 You're the one with the feet. 

B 4 So are you. You sit down! 

A 5 Sit down with the feet, you! 

You in B 2 and B 4 subject of imperative. You in A 5 vocative after an imperative. 


24.2. 1 The verb in the imperative 

Another important structural feature of the imperative is that it uses the base form of 
the verb, with no modals or tense-aspect forms. This is shown by the use of be in Be 
careful\ (not *are (being) careful, *can be careful). The grammatical status of the base form 
as a non-finite is somewhat problematic, however. It does not share functions with other 
non-finite verb forms; rather, the imperative has more in common, functionally, with 
finites than with the non-finites. Like interrogatives, it relates the speaker to the hearer 
and to the here-and-now, typically in face-to-face interaction. 

Because the base form is indistinguishable from some declarative forms, there is 
potentially structural ambiguity between an imperative with a _yo«-subject and a 
declarative. This is disambiguated only in speech, by stress on the imperative subject: 

A. How do we get tickets for this show? 

B. You go and stand in the queue, (unstressed, declarative, use of 'generic' you = 

A. What shall we do, then? 

B. You go and stand in the queue while I park the car. (stressed, imperative) 

There is, however, a distinction between declarative and imperative when the verb is 
be, as in role-taking. This is because be has retained different forms for person and tense 
(am, is, are). Compare: 

You be the doctor and I'll be the nurse, (imperative) 
You're the doctor and I'm the nurse, (declarative) 

The declarative 3rd person singular finite form -5 avoids ambiguity with a 3rd person 
subject imperative. Note however that please always points to a directive meaning: 



Everybody sit down, please! 
Nobody say a word! 

Everybody sits down. 
Nobody says a word. 

If the Subject is plural, the verb form is the same in both types, but intonation, pause, 
gesture and common sense serve to clarify the meaning in a specific context. 

Ticket-holders (pause) come this Ticket-holders come this way. 


Those in agreement (pause) raise Those in agreement raise their hands. 

their hands! 


24.2.2 Negative and emphatic imperatives 

Don't (placed before a subject) and do are used to negate or emphasise 2nd person 
imperatives, respectively. (To some speakers, do sounds rather old-fashioned now.) 

Negative & 







careful, now! 


to me like that! 

still, Pat! 

24.2.3 Let's and Let us 

Another feature of the imperative in English is the use of let's to form a 1st person 
plural imperative with the implicit Subject we. Its typical use is to suggest or urge 
a collaborative action that includes both speaker and addressee(s). It is also used, 
however, as a disguised order by speakers in authority, as in the third example. The tag 
question used with 1st person imperatives is Shall we? 

Let's take a few photos, shall we? 
Let's go home, shall we? 
Let's have some silence now! 

Let's is historically derived from let us and in very formal settings, including church 
services, the unabbreviated form is heard: 

Let us pray. 

Let us consider the possible alternatives. 

It may be that let's is beginning to function as an unanalysed pragmatic particle, as in 
non-standard let'syou and I do it. The negative form of let 'sis let's not, although don't let's 
is also heard 

Let's not waste any more time. 
Oh, don 't let's talk about it, Len. 

[BNC AMB 799] 
[BNC GVT 2492] 

Let's is not to be confused with the normal imperative of the lexical verb let meaning 
permit, allow, as in: 

Let me do it! Let me help you. 

As an illustration of the differences between the particle let and lexical let (- allow), 

Let's go and see that new film! (particle let) 

Please let us go and see that new film, (lexical let) 


Let's go! (let as particle) 

Let us go! (lexical verb let) 

us = 1 + you 

Pronoun us reduced to ' s 

No subject pronoun can be added 

The tag is shall we? 
The verb is not ellipted 

us = me + offier(s) 

Pronoun us not reduced 

2nd person subject you can be added: 
You let us go! 

The tag is will you? /can't you? 

Phrasal verb is ellipted with verbs of 
direction: Let us in/out (= come/go in/out) 

Obviously, both uses of let can occur in the same clause, as in Let's let them in now. 
The pragmatic particle let can also introduce a wish (the optative mood) as in Let there 
be light and is used only in formal registers (for inclusive and exclusive we/ us, see 45.7.1). 


Spoken English and genres which imitate it are rich in ellipsis and reduced forms 
in general. We have already seen examples of abbreviated clauses, echo questions 
and tags. 

Verbless clauses 

We use the term 'verbless clause' to cover ellipted clauses which lack one or more 
structural elements: Subject and Finite verb 1, 2, 3, 5, Finite verb 4. They therefore 
lack the alternative orderings characteristic of abbreviated clauses. Some can take 
question tags, however, with either rising or falling intonation. Without a tag, intonation 
indicates the force of a statement, question or exclamation. 

1 (He is) in New York, isn't he? (question) 

2 What a waste of time, (it was) wasn't it! (exclamation) 

3 (This is) Simon here, (self-identifying statement on the phone) 

4 (Are) you ready? (question) 

5 (It's) fantastic! (exclamation) 

In conversational exchanges in English, certain wh- questions without a finite verb play 
a part as initiators and responses. They can have the force of an invitation (How about 
some lunch?), an encouraging suggestion ( Why not give it another try?), an inquiry (How 
come Sheila's not with you?) 


Freestanding subordinate clauses 

These also are characteristic of ongoing conversation. Two very common types are the 
sentential relative clause introduced by which 1 and clauses of reason introduced by 
because or cos 2 (see 35.3). The interesting feature is that they are not attached to a 
previous clause, but are freestanding, both intonationally and as regards punctuation. 
Functionally, they reinforce or give the reason for making the previous utterance: 

1 and, he said, well with the coal fire and all that, he said, it'll, it'll get dirty 

Mm which it will, won't it? [bnc ke6 10518-10519] 

2a Because you 're worth it. (Closing utterance in L'Oreal hair care advertisements.) 
2b Did you see King Lear when it was on on the television? Cos I taped that as well. 

[BNC KDM 3696-3697] 


In English, mood has to do with clause types rather than verb inflection. It leaves the 
subjunctive somewhat isolated, since this is not a clause type, but a verb form which 
in present-day British English plays a very marginal role, although it is rather more 
common in American English. 

As regards the expression of non-factual meaning, the subjunctive has also lost 
ground. In independent clauses the subjunctive can express a wish, but only in fossilised 
stereotyped expressions like Long live the Queen\ So be it, Heaven be praised! Far be it from 
me to doubt your word. Even in subordinate clauses, a clearly identifiable present 
subjunctive is limited to the uninfected VG occurring with a 3rd person singular subject 
in rtcrt-clause complements of certain verbs and adj ectives, as in: It is right that this House 
debate this issue. In less formal contexts the indicative or should + infinitive are now 
used by many speakers. (We recommend that he gets/ should get a visa.) 

A past subjunctive can be identified only in the form were in the 1st and 3rd persons 
singular of be (If I were you . . . If he were to return alive . . .) in subordinate clauses of 
condition and concession, where it is still very current. Most non-factual notions, such 
as the expression of doubt and hypothesis, are conveyed in English by other grammatical 
means, principally any and its compounds and the modal auxiliaries, especially should, 
could, may and might (see Module 44). 

One area in which an indicative-subjunctive contrast is made is in a certain type of 
//clause, as in: 

If he was here I didn't see him. (indicative) 

If he were here I would surely see him. (subjunctive) 

Only the second //"clause is truly conditional. The first, meaning 'if it is true that he was 
here', is rhetorical condition in that his being here is not a condition for my seeing him. 
This is also referred to as pragmatic conjunction (see 35.3). 





While examining the structure of clause types, we have mainly illustrated them with 
their unmarked correspondences, but these are not the only ones. All language in 
use carries out acts, and this is what distinguishes an utterance from a sentence. A 
sentence is a grammatical object, but when it gets used in context what we have is 
an utterance. The meaning of an utterance depends on what it is being used to do 
-what kind of speech act is being performed. 

In this section we shall start with the speech act and see how the clause types 
can carry out different intended meanings from their basic ones. 

1 All language performs acts, but there is no one-to-one correspondence between 
clause type and speech-act function. Here we look at some of the indirect 
correspondences, together with other discourse functions. 

2 Certain verbs such as promise, advise and warn, when used in the declarative, 
are potentially explicit performatives, that is they can carry out the act they 
name. This is the case with a 1 st person subject and the present tense [I promise). 

3 Exclamations can be made, with appropriate intonation, by all clause types, 
as well as by verbless clauses reduced to a nominal group or an adjective. 


We have seen that making a statement is the basic function of the declarative. A 
statement describes a state of affairs in the world and has a truth value, which can be 
confirmed, questioned or denied (She is at home; Is she at home? She is not at home). Stating 
something is performing the verbal act of stating. The declarative is unique among clause 
types, however, in its ability to carry out certain acts by naming them. These are explicit 


With certain verbs - such as promise, advise and warn - a declarative carries out the 
speech act it names. Such declaratives usually address the hearer directly, as in: 

1 I promise I'll be careful. [bnc B3J 1436] 

2 We advise you to book early to avoid disappointment. [bnc amw 1335] 

3 If you insist on staying, I warn you, you'll get no help [bnc H94 724] 

from me. 

4 And we have a very good selection of Indian restaurants: [bnc hdt 49] 

I recommend the Kashmir. 

That is, the speaker carries out the act of promising, advising, warning and recom- 
mending, respectively. Declaratives such as these don't have truth value. It makes no 
sense to ask if they are true or false. Instead, we can ask if they work as performatives. 
With a 1 st-person speaker and present tense, as in I promise I'll be careful, the performative 
is explicit and the speaker is fully accountable as the doer of the speech act. 

As long as the underlying Subject is the speaker or the writer, the passive forms 5, 
6, or an active form with an impersonal NG Subject 7, have the same effect: 

5 You are advised to book early to avoid disappointment. 

6 Passengers are requested to have their boarding cards ready. 

7 Liverpool Airport apologise for any inconvenience caused to the public during 

building works. 

Performatives become less explicit when modalised (with can or must), when introduced 
by let, want, I'm afraid or when nominalised. They still count as performatives, however: 

8 I can offer you beer, whisky, gin, coke . . . 

9 Let me thank you once more for your collaboration. 

10 My apologies for cross-postings, (for sending a repeated email message) 

1 1 I must beg you not to tell anyone about this. 

12 I am afraid I have to request you to move to another seat. 

13 I wanna thank you all. God bless you. (President George W. Bush to the 

American people in the aftermath of 1 1 September 2001) 

These 'hedged', that is, indirect, forms are felt to be still performing the act named by 
the verb. In addition, they are more polite than direct forms because they avoid invoking 
power and status. Hearers may perceive them to be more sincere, as is also the case 
with the informal use of wanna instead of want to in the President's thanks. 

Other verbs that can be used as explicit performatives include: agree, apologise, beg, 
bet, congratulate, declare, guarantee, offer, object, warn, wish and many others. 

With pronouns other than I/we, or with past tense or perfect aspect, such verbs do 
not carry out the act they name; instead, they are statements which report a speech act: 

I offered them beer, whisky, gin, cola . . . 

They have requested passengers to have their boarding cards ready. 

You might wonder why we don't use performatives all the time, if they are so efficient. 
One reason is that not all verbs are potentially performative. For instance, we can't 


threaten someone in English by saying 'I threaten you', nor hint by saying 'I hint that 
you are wrong'. These acts have to be done indirectly. 

A second reason is that explicit performatives sometimes appear to invoke authority 
or status. The power factor is most obvious in 'ritual performatives' such as: 

Then I declare the meeting closed. [bnc GUD618] 

I name this ship Aurora. (Authorised person at launching of 

the ship) [bnc 9W787] 

Negative declaratives typically express a negative statement, which may have the 
force of a rejection 1. Negating an explicit performative can have the effect of greatly 
attenuating the force, as in 2, though this is not the case with passives 5. Negative 
declaratives can also express a polite question 3, an exclamation 4 or a prohibition 5: 

1 I don't need any more calendars, thank you. 

2 I don't promise you that I'll convince him. 

3 Bill hasn't said anything about the weekend? 

4 I never heard such rubbish! 

5 Smoking is not allowed in here 

With some performatives such as advise, what we have is transferred negation. The 
negative particle not is transferred from its logical place in the dependent clause to the 
main clause (see 3.6 for other verbs, such as think, which behave this way): 

I don't advise you to buy those shares (= I advise you not to buy those shares). 

Certain verbs such as promise and bet are sometimes used performatively to carry out 
a different act from the one they name. Basically, promise carries out acts which benefit 
the addressee, while bet is used to lay a wager. But, in the examples that follow, this is 
not the case: promise is being used to threaten the addressee while bet informally 
expresses strong probability: 

Now get out of bed and don't you dare make a sound. One sound and you won't 

make another, I promise you. [bnc fsg 2608-2609] 

I bet they have their problems, like us. [bnc H94 862] 


Appropriate intonation can be imposed on any type of unit, including a single word, to 
express an exclamation (Splendid!). 

With appropriate intonation, all the clause types can be used to make exclamations: 
the exclamative structure 1, 2; an interrogative 3, 4; a declarative 5, 6; an imperative 
7; a verbless clause 8, 9; a nominal group 10: 

Using the exclamative structure: 1 What an idiot he is! 

2 How tall you've grown! 


Using an interrogative 

Using a declarative 

Using an imperative 
Using a verbless clause 

Using a nominal group 

3 Isn't it a lovely day! 

4 Would you believe it! (expressing 

5 You must be joking! 

6 You can't be serious! 

7 Fancy meeting you here! 

8 What an idiot! 

9 Amazing! Rubbish! 

10 The trouble I've had with Jamie! 

Interrogative exclamations, unlike basic exclamatives, call for agreement or 
disagreement from the hearer: A. Isn 't it a lovely day! B. Yes, it is. 

Such, so and other intensifying items such as terribly also confer exclamative force on 
a declarative: 

He's such a bore! 
It's terribly hot! 

It's so tiring! 

It was extraordinarily beautiful! 





Questions typically seek information from the hearer that the speaker does not know. 
Responding to different motivations are questions functioning as preliminaries, 
rhetorical questions and leading questions of various types. The latter include 
interrogatives that are biased according to the kind of answer the speaker expects, 
towards a neutral, positive or negative assumption. These are marked by non- 
assertive forms (any), assertive forms (some) and negative forms (no, not any), 
respectively. Positive assumptions allow for positive forms, with some even in 
negative questions. Other leading questions consist of tentative declaratives with 
conducive markers and appropriate intonation, sometimes called 'queclaratives'. 
Ellipted verbless clauses rely heavily for interpretation on intonation and their position 
in the exchange. 

The most basic intention in asking questions is to get information that we believe the 
addressee knows. It is not the only one, however. We here refer to two others. 


Do you expect me to wait here all day? 
What could I say? 
Why bother? 

Rhetorical questions are used to make a comment or an exclamation. A response is not 


In interpersonal interaction the yes/ no interrogative is sometimes used as a preliminary 
to something else. That is, the question is not so much seeking information as serving 
as a preliminary to an expansion of the speaker's topic 1 or a veiled request 2: 


1 A. Have you read this book? 
B. No, no. 

A. It's about a plane that crashes in the Andes and no-one comes to their rescue 

2 A. Are you going to the hospital this morning? 

B. No. 

A. Well if you do it'll give us a chance to find out whether he's coming home 
today or tomorrow. [bnc kpi 36-38] 

This function of yes/no questions would appear to be the basis of advertisements which 
use this type of interrogative in their text in imitation of speech patterns. Using a 
problem-solution schema, the following ad poses a series of problems or worries as 
questions, which are answered by a diagnosis in a clause of another type: 

Do you need coffee and colas to keep you going throughout the day? 

Do you feel run-down and stressed, and struggle to keep up with life's daily 

Are you exhausted for several days after a hike or work-out at the gym? 
Is the "war on terrorism" making you feel worried, tired or depressed? 
You may be suffering from adrenalin disease. 

(Smart Publications) 


The questions expressed by yes/ no interrogatives are often biased according to the kind 
of answer the speaker expects, and are based on neutral, positive or negative 

If the speaker has a neutral assumption about the answer, non-assertive forms 
(any, anybody, ever, yet, etc. (see 3.3) will be added to a positive interrogative: 

Do you know anyone in Westminster? 
Is the bank open yet? 

With a positive assumption, assertive forms (see 3.3) -some, somebody, always, already, 
too, etc. - are added to the positive interrogative: 

Do you know someone in Westminster? 
Is the bank open already? 

Negative-interrogative yes/ no questions are based on conflicting attitudes. The speaker 
had originally expected that the answer would be or should be positive, but new 


evidence suggests that it will be negative. This conflict produces a feeling of surprise, 
disbelief or disappointment. If the addressee is directly involved, the biased question 
can imply a reproach. In this type of question, nuclear negative forms (see 3.2) - no, 
nobody, no-one, never, etc. - can be added to a positive interrogative: 

Is there no butter? (There should be some butter, but it seems 

there isn't.) 
Do you know no-one in Westminster? (You ought to know someone, but it seems 

you don't.) 

Alternatively, non-assertive forms can be added to a negative interrogative: 

Isn't there any butter anywhere! 

Don't you know anyone in Westminster? 

Assertive forms can be added to a negative interrogative to reflect a positive bias 
despite an originally negative assumption: 

Isn't there some butter somewhere? (It seems there isn't, but I expect there is.) 
Don't you know someone in (It appears that you don't, but I think you 

Westminster? must know someone.) 

With offers, it seems more polite in English to assume a positive outcome, namely that 
the offer will be accepted. For this reason, the some forms are normal in such cases: 

Would you like some more coffee? [bnc kpv 2948] 

Do you want something - a soft drink - before you go? [bnc kca 952] 

Negation by nuclear negative elements - as opposed to negation by the negative particle 
not- is explained in Chapter 1 (section 3.3), together with assertive and non-assertive 
items (see 3.4). 


Speakers also use declaratives to seek confirmation of their assumptions in a tactful 
way. Most simply, the declarative is accompanied by appropriate intonation: You are 
seeing her? You don 't mind if I stay? They are, in fact, leading questions and for this reason 
have been called queclaratives. Frequently, certain items function as markers to 'draw 
out' the desired information by reinforcing the speaker's assumption: 

epistemic verbs with 1st person subject {I suppose, believe, guess, bet, assume) 

hearsay verbs with 1st person subject (I understand, I'm told, I hear) 

adverbs used as inferential connectives (so, then) 

attitudinal adjuncts of assurance or assumption (of course, no doubt) 

attitudinal adjunct of challenge or assumption (surely) 

a displaced wh- element (who, what, where, etc. in final position) 


Examples are: 

/ suppose you've heard the news? (epistemic verb) 

/ understand you're leaving your job? (hearsay verb) 

/ hear you've been offered a new post? (hearsay verb) 

She wasn't invited to the wedding, then? (inferential connective) 

So there's nothing we can do? (inferential connective) 

She knows all about it, of course? (attitudinal adjunct) 

But surely you can just defrost it in the (attitudinal adjunct) 


So you took the documents to which (displaced wh-element) 

Ministerial office? And you left them 


More indirectly still, speakers can hint that information should be provided by You were 
about to say . . .? 

The position of the declarative in the conversational sequence and the reply that 
follows can also help us to see how these markers function. For instance, an interviewer 
in a chat show might press a participant to admit that she had left her husband and child, 
which she denies: 

Interviewer: So you've reported, basically, that you walked out? 

Young woman: No, I didn't walk out. 

Ellipted yes/ no questions (a type of verbless clause) are extremely common in spoken 
English. With these, it is even more important than usual to use appropriate intonation. 
For example, if you are pouring coffee for someone, you might offer sugar and milk 
by saying simply Sugar? Milk? with a rising tone. A falling tone would be inferred as a 
statement, 'Here is the sugar, here is the milk', but wouldn't necessarily be interpreted 
as an offer. 




1 The clearest way of trying to get someone to do something is by an imperative. 
Strong impositions that invoke power and status are not socially acceptable in 
English in many everyday situations, even when accompanied by please. 
Orders are usually avoided and are preferably made indirectly as requests by 
using other clause types. Question tags either soften or heighten the force of 
the directive; with imperatives, tags tend to sound familiar. 

2 Modalisation is another resource for producing directives. With modalised 
declaratives the effect is usually stronger and more formal, while modalised 
interrogatives tend to sound more polite. In contexts of urgency [Help! Sfop!) 
the imperative can be used, as in others in which the hearer's welfare is referred 
to [Sleep well! Have fun!). 

3 Besides directing other people to do things, the speaker can commit him/herself 
to carrying out an act. Performative uses of promise and modal will with a 
declarative do precisely this. The particle let's is used to make suggestions for 
actions, usually to be carried out jointly with the addressee. It can also function, 
however, as a disguised order or request. 


Although the basic speech act associated with imperative clauses is commonly held to 
be that of expressing a command, the imperative is used more frequently in English for 
less mandatory purposes. It can imply attitudes and intentions that are not actually 
formulated in the clause, and which can only be interpreted through a knowledge of the 
background context and of the relationships that exist between the persons involved. 
In fact, the difference between commands and other directives such as requests, 
invitations and advice is, as we have already seen, not clear-cut. It depends on such 
factors as the relative authority of the speaker towards the addressee and whether the 


addressee is given the option of complying or not with the directive: in the case of a 
command there is no option, whereas with a request there is. 

Other factors include which of the two interlocutors is judged to benefit from the 
fulfilment of the action: a piece of advice benefits the addressee, whereas a request 
benefits the speaker. Good wishes (Get well soon!) rarely refer to agentive acts (see 14.1) 
and so aren't directives. 

Politeness is also a major factor. The more the action is likely to benefit the addressee, 
the more socially acceptable an imperative will be. Otherwise, an imperative is likely to 
sound curt or demanding in English. 

Consider the following cost-benefit scale on which the imperative is kept constant. 
The utterances at the lower end of the scale sound more polite than those at the top, 
even though there are no specific markers of politeness present: 

1 Peel those potatoes 

2 Hand me the newspaper 

3 Sit down 

4 Look at that 

5 Enjoy your holiday 

6 Have another sandwich 

more cost to addressee 

less polite 

more benefit to addressee more polite 

(Adapted from Leech 1983) 

Other factors override politeness, however, such as emergency (Help!) or attention- 
seeking in conversation (Look, what I meant was . . .); the imperative can also be used 
when the speaker and hearer are carrying out a joint task (Pass me the spanner), when 
the hearer's interests are put first (Don't worry! Cheer up! Take care!), and even as a 
discourse initiator or topic introducer (Guess who 1 saw this morning at the bank). 

The speech-act force of imperatives has, therefore, to be worked out by the addressee 
from the logical meaning of the sentence combined with the inferences made on the 
basis of context and the speaker-hearer relationship. Isolated examples can simply 
illustrate some typical interpretations: 

Get out of here! 

Keep off the grass. 

Please close the window! 

Don't tell me you've passed your driving test! 

Do that again and you'll be sorry. 

Pass your exams and we'll buy you a bike. 

Don't forget your umbrella! 

Mind the step!/ Be careful with that hot plate! 

Feel free to take as many leaflets as you like. 

Just listen to this! 

Try one of these! 

Let's go jogging! 

Come on now, don't cry!/ Go on, have a go! 

Sleep well! Have a safe journey! 

Suppose he doesn't answer. 





condition of threat 

condition of promise 




showing interest/involvement 




good wishes 

considering a possible happening 


Think nothing of it. rejecting thanks 

[Some people make easy profit.] Take drug illustrative example of a claim 


Imperatives (especially with let's) can fulfil a textual function in regulating the 
conversational flow, in many cases to the advantage of the more powerful speaker: 

Let's get started a call to attention 

Let's start by . . . management of the topic 

Let's see/let me see hesitation marker, to avoid silence and 

keep the floor 
Let's just stick to the main concern disallowing an interruption/topic 

More people read magazines than, giving a possible example 
let's say, historical treatises. 


After an imperative, a modal tag acts as an intensifier, either softening or heightening the 
insistence of the directive. Will you? and could you? convey a high degree of optionality 
while can 't you? questions the hearer's apparent inability to do something, conveying 
impatience and low optionality. The more optional the act appears to be, the more polite 
is the request. 

Intonation and the words used can make even will you less polite, however; Shut up 
and Drop dead don't become polite by adding will you. Rising intonation is typically 
polite and persuasive, failing intonation more insistent. 

Check this for me, will you? polite, anticipates willingness 

Sign this for me, would you? polite, anticipates willingness 

Keep this for me, can you? familiar, anticipates willingness 

Hold this for me, could you? less familiar, anticipates willingness 

Keep quiet, can't you? insistent, anticipates unwillingness 

These examples are characteristic of contexts of familiarity. With the exception of 
can't, they question and anticipate the addressee's willingness to carry out the action, 
and are polite but familiar, expressing solidarity. The negative imperative tag will you? 
is also familiar as in Don 't be late, will you ?, while the invariable tag mind is more insistent: 
Don 't be late, mind! 

Where there is no relationship of closeness between the speakers, these forms may 
sound over-familiar. In such cases most modalised interrogatives are safer without tags. 



The directive force is overlaid onto the interrogative. Such directives are more polite 
precisely because as interrogatives they appear to give the addressee the option of 
refusing, as in the following examples: 

1 Can you close the door? 

2 Will you close the door? 

3 Could you close the door? 

4 Would you close the door? 

5 Won't you close the door? 

6 Can't you close the door? 

7 Must you leave the door open? 

8 Do you mind closing the door? 

The modals in 3 and 4 Could you? and Would you? are most polite because by the use 
of oblique ('past') forms they create conceptual distance between themselves and the 
speech act. Furthermore, distance correlates with less social involvement. The speaker 
conveys the impression that closing the door is of no great personal benefit; this gives 
the hearer a wider margin for possible refusal. As in the imperative tag, can't 6 is not 
polite as a request. Won't 5 is not polite either, as it appears to question the hearer's 
unwillingness to carry out the rather trivial act of closing the door. Such unwillingness 
to carry out simple actions that obviously need doing also violates cultural conven- 
tions of cooperation. By contrast, won't you? as an offer or invitation (make yourself at 
home, won't you) is polite because it expresses warmth and generosity, and presumes 
that the act benefits the addressee. Must 7 is ironical, implying that the hearer has an 
insurmountable urge to leave the door open. 

Responding to directives 

Requests are sometimes responded to by a standard phrase: A. Do you mind closing the 
door?B. Not at all/ Certainly/ Sure. Of these, not at all responds to the sentence meaning 
of Do you mind?, whereas certainly and sure clearly respond to the pragmatic meaning 
of 'request' rather than to the sentence meaning, since they are not to be taken as 
certainly/ sure I mind closing the door. Offers can be accepted by Yes, please or Thanks, 
and refused by No, thanks. Thank you alone is not interpreted as a refusal in English. 
Suggestions are responded to in many different ways such as okay, I might, it's an idea. 


A declarative which contains a modal auxiliary (e.g. can, shall, will, may, might, must, 
ought, should) and refers to an action to be carried out by the addressee can be used 
with the force of a directive. They are usually quite strong, invoking authority: 

You will report to Head Office tomorrow, (command) 
Dogs must be kept on a lead. (strong obligation) 


You may /can leave now. (permission) 

Surely you can take your own decisions! (exclamative-directive) 

A 1st person declarative with a modal can have the effect of committing the speaker to 
a course of action: 

17/ meet you at the entrance at about nine. 
I must rush off now to my aerobics class. 

Note that the modals also express meanings of prediction (will, shall), logical necessity 
(must), possibility (may, might) and reasonable inference (should, ought) - see 44.3. These 
meanings are almost always clearly distinguishable from the directive meanings, as in: 

There w///be time for a few questions, (prediction) 

It must be almost half-past nine. (logical necessity /deduction) 


Indirectness is part of everyday interaction in spoken English. It is important to learn 
to handle and interpret the conventional politeness forms and the force each carries, as 
these serve to construct and negotiate meanings and actions which lead to a satisfactory 
outcome for both or all the participants. 

This does not mean that speakers are invariably polite to each other. Far from it. 
Mutual insults among some communities represent a form of solidarity. In many other 
contexts, competitiveness or a desire to score off the adversary lead quickly to confron- 
tational attitudes and acrimonious exchanges. Indirectness and implicit meanings are 
common in such cases also, as is illustrated in the following extract from Ian Rankin's 
novel Set in Darkness. 

Detective Inspector Lin ford is sitting in his BMW in the only spare bay belonging to 
a large office block in Edinburgh. Another car approaches and stops, its driver 
sounding the horn and gesturing: 

'That's my space you're in, so if you wouldn't mind. ?'.' 

Linford looked around. '/ don't see any signs.' 2 

'This is staff parking.' 3 A glance at a wristwatch. 'And I'm late for a meeting.' 4 
Linford looked towards where another driver was getting into his car. 'Space there 
for you.' s 

'You deaf or wnaf?' 6 Angry face, jaw jutting and tensed. A man looking for a 

Linford was just about ready. 'So you'd rather argue with me than get to your 
meeting?' 7 He looked towards where another car was leaving. 'Nice spot over 
there.' 1 


'That's Harley. He takes his lunch hour at the gym. I'll be in the meeting when he 
gets back, and mat's his space. 9 Which is why you move your junk heap. n ° 

'This from a man who drives a Sierra Cosworm. n ' 

'Wrong answer.'^ 2 The man yanked Linford's door open. 

'The assault charge is going to look bloody good on your CV.' U 

'You'll have fun trying to make a complaint through broken feef/i.' 14 

'And you'll be in the cells for assaulting a police officer.'^ 5 
The man stopped, his jaw retreating a fraction. His Adam's apple was prominent 
when he swallowed. Linford took the opportunity to reach into his jacket, showing 
his warrant card. 

'So now you know who I am. 06 Linford said, 'But I didn't catch your 
name . . .7 U 

'Look. I'm sorry. na The man had turned from fire to sun, his grin trying for 
embarrassed apology. '/ didn't mean to . . ." (see exercise) 

You will see that the numbered sentences of the fictional dialogue are either declaratives 
or interrogatives, although some of the clauses are verbless. Notice how the two speakers 
overlay the basic force of question and assertion with other more implicit forces such 
as explanation, reason, warning, threat, apology, challenge, provocation, 
suggestion, excuse. It is these indirect meanings that are inferred and which interest 
us here. 

Linguists have long debated on how we successfully interpret such indirect speech 
acts and how we distinguish between different degrees of politeness. One cognitive 
explanation is that such meanings are represented in the form of 'illocutionary scenarios', 
that is, organised structures of our generic knowledge. Such scenarios are abstracted in 
our minds from a number of stereotyped situations in everyday life within a particular 
culture. For English, though not necessarily for other languages, the indirect way of 
making a request is, as we have seen, to question the addressee's capability (can you?) 
or willingness [will you?) to carry out the act. As capability and willingness are necessary 
conditions for doing the act, such questionings stand for the whole speech act of 
requesting, by a process of metonymy - the part standing for the whole. In activating a 
scenario for strong directives, however, the cost-benefit and power factors have also to 
be taken into account. 


This table illustrates some of the more conventional correspondences between 
mood types and their illocutionary force. Many speech acts can also be expressed by 
units both larger and smaller than the clauses, as well as by non-linguistic means such 
as gestures. 


Clause type 

lllocutionary force 




Explicit performative 
Hedged performative 
Biased question 
Question (displaced wh-) 




prelude to request 




We are ready to go. 

1 beg you to reconsider your decision. 

We wish to thank you for all your help. 

So you went out with her? 

You took the documents to which 

It was so hot! 

Papers are to be in by April 15. 

1 wonder if you would lend me your car. 

1 suppose you haven't got any change 

on you. 
I'm terribly sorry but, could you . . .? 
I'd sell if 1 were you. 
That plate's hot! 
You must try one of these. 



What an angel you've been! 


rhetorical question 








Who is that man over there? 
Who will believe that story. 

How could you be so careless? 
Isn't it wonderful! 

How dare you speak to her like that! 

Will you please be quiet! 
Could you lend me a pen . . .? 
Why don't you see a doctor? 
Won't you sit down? 









Shut up! 

Save some for me! 

Have a drink! 

Mind your head! 

Twist off. 

Don't tell me you've passed! 

27.7.1 Clause combinations 

Combinations of clauses can be used in English to express a polite request. The greater 
the imposition on the hearer, the longer the combination is likely to be, and it may be 
preceded by an apology: 


I'm terribly sorry to bother you. I wonder if you could possibly write me a 
testimonial. If it's not too inconvenient, perhaps you could let me have it back by 

Clauses without subject or finite verb 

How about a swim? M^-questions as suggestion 

Why not start again? 

Why all this fuss? verbless Wfty-questions as inquiry 

What to do in case of fire Wh-to-mf. clauses as directive headings 

How to boost your self-esteem 

Subordinate clauses 

To think what we might have missed! to-infinitive clauses as exclamations 

Not to worry! or as friendly advice 

If only I had taken his advice! if only clauses, indicating regret 

What if we all go for a swim? Wh-if-c\auses as suggestions 

Groups and words with speech act force 

Straight ahead! 
Down with war! 


For clause types, distribution and conversational grammar: Biber et al. (1999). The mood 
element and interpersonal interaction, Halliday (1994). Direct and indirect speech acts, 
Searle (1975), Thomas (1996), Grundy (1995). Performative(ness), Austin (1962), 
Thomas (1995). Politeness and the cost-benefit scale, Leech (1983), Brown and Levinson 
(1987). Queclaratives, Geluykens (1987), Downing (2005); Surely as a stance marker, 
Downing (2001); 'I think', Thompson (2002), Karkkainen (2003); Cooperativeness and 
inferencing, Grice (1975). Types and functions of questions, Taylor (1989), Weber (1993). 
Intonation in ellipted questions, Gumperz (1982). Discourse functions of the imperative, 
De Clerck (2002). Metonymy, Panther and Thornburg (1998), Perez Hernandez and Ruiz 
de Mendoza (2002). 



Interaction between speaker and hearer 

Module 22 

|The following text is an email advertisement for computer software. It has no punctuation. 
Mark the clause boundaries by punctuation and identify the clause types, giving reasons 
for your analysis. Now suggest what type of speech acts are being performed. 

In business and personal life 

Paper is the communication medium & storage device 

Documents fill the space 

Communication takes time 

Corrections are inevitable 

Clarifications are unavoidable 

Inaccuracy costs money 

Mistakes cause losses and lost opportunites 

Efforts may be fruitless 

Results may be unattained 

Technology rises to the occasion 

The software solution is available 

For your daily private and business use 

[EDIFACT Prime takes you beyond the edge] 

Breakthroughs are your tools 

Perfection and harmony is your lifestyle 

Exchange the routine for simplicity and speed 

Module 23 

1 tin the following extract from a news item by Jeremy O'Grady in The Week, identify at 
least one occurrence of each of the following: a positive declarative, a declarative with a 
word ending in -ever, a wh-interrogative, a declarative with a modal operator, an 
exclamative, an imperative. What element goes with the interrogative and what is its 
function? Do you think these clause types show their usual speech act correspondences? 

I'm all in favour of the free market in theory, 1 but what a disappointment it often 
proves to be in practice. 2 Take plumbers. 3 In economic theory, London should be 
awash with them, the demand for their services being so high and the costs of entry 
to their trade so relatively low. 4 So where the hell are they when you want one? 5 Or 
take the principle of consumer service. 6 In theory you'd expect the market to 
acknowledge that 'the consumer always knows best'. 7 In practice, whenever one 
complains about shoddy service, one is dismissed as an idiot. 8 


2 "^Underline the Subject and Finite elements in each of the following clauses. Then (a) make 
the declarative clauses negative; (b) convert the negative declaratives into yes/ 'no negative 
interrogatives (main clause only); (c) underline the Subject and new Finite elements: 

(1) I am going to be the last one to hear about it. 

(2) Nadine's mum bought enough blue denim to make two skirts. 

(3) He tells everyone his life history every time he meets them. 

(4) Sheila knew where the keys were all the time. 

(5) Bill took on a great deal of responsibility in his previous job. 

3 "(Imagine you are helping at an optician's. Below are the replies to a questionnaire, but 
the questions are missing. You have to provide them. 1 , 2, 3, 6, 8 and 1 are wh-questions; 
4, 5, 7 and 9 are yes/ no questions 

(1) My name is Pat O'Connor. 

(2) My address is 3 1 St Gerard's Avenue, Birmingham. 

(3) I was born in Ireland in 1980. 

(4) Yes, I am using eye drops. 

(5) No, my eyes don't smart. 

(6) Not often. I take just aspirin occasionally. 

(7) No, I don't. I wear contact lenses. 

(8) I've been wearing them for a year. 

(9) Yes, I'm allergic to certain things - pollens, for example. 
(10) I started to have visual problems two days ago. 

4 tlf both abbreviated clauses and tags are based structurally on Subject-Finite variation, 
in what way do they differ? Look again at the dialogue on page 1 83 and identify the 
instance(s) of each. For greater clarity replace B 3 's Mm by an abbreviated clause. Clue: 
Consider subject-operator alternation and the position of the utterances in the exchange. 

5 tRead this extract of a fictional dialogue between Nadine and Ellie and then answer the 

N. Why have you gone pink, Ellie? 


E. Oh God, 1 haven't, have 1? 


N. Shocking pink. What is it? 


E. Nothing. 


[Girls Out Late) 

(a) What kind of interrogatives does Nadine use in speaking to Ellie in 1 and 3? 

(b) What does Nadine want to know? 

(c) Does she get this information in reply in 2 and 4? 

(d) What kinds of units does Ellie use in reply in 2 and 4? 


6 tProvide abbreviated clauses as (a) confirming and (b) disconfirming responses to each 
of the following questions: 

(1) It doesn't seem to matter who you are. 

(2) You have two children, haven't you, Charles? 

(3) Will you be going to the concert this evening? 

(4) Let's find a seat. 

7 |Add (a) a reversed polarity tag to each of the following clauses, when possible; (b) a 
constant polarity tag when possible: 

(1) This wallet is yours. 

(2) You've got a new bicycle. 

(3) Susie likes doing crossword puzzles. 

(4) Don't be late. 

(5) Be careful! 

(6) Your father used to work for the City Council. 

(7) Some of these shops overcharge terribly. 

(8) So he fell on his hand and broke it. 

8 Discussion: What functions do tags fulfil in interpersonal interaction? 

9 Practise saying the tags in the following examples: (a) with rising intonation, and (b) with 
falling intonation. In your reading aloud, you should aim to get in (a) the meaning of 'Am 
I right?' and in (b) 'Please confirm this'. 

(1) He approved of the plan, didn't he? 

(2) He didn't approve of the plan, did he? 

(3) We'll have enough money, won't we? 

(4) We won't have enough money, will we? 

Module 24 

1 tDecide whether the italicised item is a subject, a vocative or either. Give reasons. 

(1 ) Keep still, Edward, there's a good boy. 

(2) Somebody pass me the insect repellent, quick! Thank you, dear. Now you take 

(3) Everybody lift at the same time! Right, up she goes, everybody! 

(4) Do shut up, Helen, you're making a fool of yourself. 

(5) You all wait here, that will be best. I'll be back in a moment. 

(6) You just leave him alone, do you hear? 

2 |The following extracts are from Al Gore's concession speech at the conclusion of the 
2000 US presidential campaign, after he had lost the election. For each extract, say 
whether let is (a) a 2nd person imperative of the verb let [=allow], (b) the pragmatic particle 


let introducing a wish (the optative), or (c) the same particle in its function of suggesting 
an action to be carried out by speaker and addressee (a 1st person plural imperative). 
Say which type is not represented and suggest a reason for its absence: 

(1) Let there be no doubt, while I strongly disagree with the court's decision, I 
accept it. 

(2) Let me say how grateful I am to all those who've supported me. 

(3) And I say to our fellow members of the world community: Let no-one see this contest 
as a sign of American weakness. 

Module 25 

1 tSay which of the verbs in the following clauses perform the act they name and which 

(1 ) I admit I was to blame. 

(2) I appeal to you as an honorary Roman to nip over here in your Popemobile and 
put an end to this wanton destruction. [BNC CA6 5953] 

(3) I demand to be paid for the hours I put in, whether your cousin passes her exams 
or not. [BNC JXT 454] 

(4) Neil and I argue about football all the time. [BNC CA6 5953] 

(5) \'ll say goodnight and I apologise for disturbing you so late. [BNC HWP 3355] 

(6) No really I insist. Please, after you! [BNC HNS 113] 

(7) The bed in the room next to you is perfectly adequate for me, I promise. 

[BNC JYC 454] 

(8) Much as I love the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, I refuse to call any dog Bilbo Baggins, 
so Bill he has become. [BNC EWB 372] 

(9) I bet you didn't sit on the sofa with him holding hands [BNC BMS 3669] 
(10) Referring to an elusive particle that is crucial to standard theories of physics, Stephen 

Hawking is said to have placed a wager with Professor Gordon Kane, saying, 'I'll 
bet you $100 it has not been discovered'. 

Module 26 

1 "(Identify the clause type and suggest the possible force each utterance has: 

(1) Is there any coffee? 

(2) Coffee? 

(3) Could you tell me the way to the nearest Tube station, please? 

(4) What could I say? 

(5) She didn't leave a message, then? 

(6) Wasn't it exciting! 

(7) Where would we be without tin openers? 

(8) Are you going to the Post Office? Yes. Then could you get me some stamps? 

(9) He is aware of the risk, of course? 

(10) So it wasn't you who rang just now? No. I wonder who it was. 


2 t(a) Provide whichever biasing element seems most suitable in the following questions 
(that is, neutral, positive or negative, realised by any, some, not . . . any/no or their 
compounds, respectively), (b) Answer the questions, using a suitable orientational element. 

(1) Have you . . . copies of The Times and the Guardian? 

(2) Could you get me . . . orange juice, please? 

(3) So there isn't . . . we can do? (3b) So there is . . . we can do? 

(4) Did you meet . . . interesting at the party? 

(5) Do you know . . . nice to stay for a quiet holiday near the coast? 

(6) Would you like . . . more cake? 

Module 27 

1 Provide a context for the following indirect speech acts. For instance No. 1 could be a 
father speaking to a son or daughter. If the correspondence were direct, the question would 
be asking for information, expecting an answer such as 'No, I won't'. This is clearly not 
the case. The correspondence is indirect, equivalent to 'Don't leave your bicycle outside 
in the rain!' That is, a directive. 

(1) Will you never learn not to leave your bicycle outside in the rain? 

(2) How many times do I have to tell you not to eat crisps on the sofa! 

(3) Surely you could try to drive more slowly. 

2 |lf someone says to you 'Have you change of a pound?' and you say 'Yes' without bringing 
out the change, you are reacting to the structural meaning of the interrogative, but not to 
the pragmatic meaning, the force of 'request'. Such a response can be uncooperative or 
impolite. Suggest (i) an uncooperative and (ii) a cooperative response for the following 

(a) Would you mind signing this petition in favour of genetically modified crops? 

(b) Do you know the way to the Victoria and Albert Museum? 

However, the power factor may skew the reply. The following exchange occurred in a 


Lord Longhorn to his butler: Do you mind taking this book back to the library? 

[handing over the book) 

Butler: Yes sir [taking book and leaving). 

(c) What is the butler responding to? Is it polite? Why does he say yes rather than no? 

(d) And what would the butler say if he were responding to the structural meaning of 
'Do you mind . . .?' 

3 Discussion 

If the unmarked illocutionary force of the imperative is that of a directive, why is the 
imperative mood so often replaced by another mood structure in interpersonal interaction 


in English? In what circumstances and with what kinds of speech act is the imperative 
socially acceptable? 

4 t(a) Suggest what illocutionary force would conventionally be assigned to each of these 
utterances. Final punctuation is omitted, (b) Identify the clause type of each, specifying 
those which are performatives. 

(1) I order you not to smoke in the dining-room. 

(2) Do not smoke in the dining-room. 

(3) Members will refrain from smoking in the dining-room. 

(4) No smoking in the dining-room. 

(5) Smoking is not allowed in the dining-room. 

(6) Would you mind not smoking in the dining-room? 

(7) Members are requested not to smoke in the dining-room. 

(8) Thank you for not smoking in the dining-room. 

5 "fThe background of the following dialogue is a psychiatric hospital, where Jean and 
Edward have brought their daughter. For each numbered stretch of the text, identify the 
clause type (including ellipted ones). Discuss the possible force of each: 

clause type act 

(1) Nurse: Who sent you in here? 1 

(2) Edward: The porter at reception. 2 

(3) Jean: We've been waiting nearly half 

an hour. 3 

(4) Nurse: I'm sorry. 4 

(5) We're very understaffed today. 5 

(6) It's the bank holiday. 6 

(7) Edward. Yes. 7 

(8) Nurse: He should have sent you straight 

to Admissions. 8 

(9) If you'll just come this way. 9 

(Olwen Wymark, Find Me, in Plays by Women, vol. 2) 

6 tDirectives: Suggest a specific directive force for each of the following questions: 

(1 ) Must you make so much noise? 

(2) Can you pass me that hammer? 


(3) Would you mind signing here? 

(4) Will you have some more icecream? 

(5) Why don't you help yourself? 

(6) Why don't you apply for that job? 

7 In pairs, take turns to carry out a series of directives, with the aim of getting your hearer 
to do something, first by means of a direct directive, and then by means of an indirect 
directive. Notice how your hearer reacts in each case. Remember that the greater the 
imposition on the hearer and the greater the social distance which separates speaker and 
hearer, the more polite, i.e. indirect, the speaker will have to be. But remember too that 
people are not always polite, especially if they get angry. 

(1) You need a testimonial from your tutor in order to apply for a grant at a foreign 
university. The letter must reach the university in no more than a fortnight. 

(2) Someone has repeatedly been scrawling graffiti on the wall of your house. One 
day you unexpectedly catch him/her in the act. You decide to complain. 

(3) You are at the annual staff party and inadvertently spill black coffee onto the General 
Manager's clothes. You have to apologise. 

8 |Turn to the extract from Ian Rankin on pages 209-1 and suggest the force conveyed or 
inferred by each numbered sentence. Bear in mind such forces as explanation, reason, 
threat, apology, challenge, provocation, insult, suggestion, excuse. Now 

consider the following questions: 

(1) How many different speech acts have you identified in the dialogue of this text? 

(2) List them, giving the identification number. 

(3) Which types of speech act occur most frequently? 

(4) Which speech acts are expressed by the man, and which by Linford? 

(5) From this analysis, what inferences do you draw about the attitudes of the man and 
Linford and of how the encounter develops? 



Thematic and information structures of the clause 

Module 28: Theme: the point of departure of the message 222 

28.1 Theme and Rheme 223 

28.2 Unmarked Theme and marked Theme in declarative clauses 224 

28.3 Theme in non-declarative clauses 224 

28.4 Topic, Theme and Subject 225 

28.5 Cognitive features of the Topic 226 

28.6 Topic and Subject as Theme 226 

28.7 Introducing new potential Topics into the discourse 228 

28.8 Circumstantial Adjuncts as Themes 228 

28.9 Objects and Complements as Themes 229 

28.10 Less common thematisations in the declarative clause 230 

28.10.1 Negative adverbs 230 

28.10.2 Negative Objects 231 

28.10.3 Adverbs followed by verbs of motion 23 1 

28.10.4 Detached predicatives 231 

28.1 1 Detached Themes: Absolute Theme, Dislocations and Double Themes 232 

28.11.1 Absolute Theme 232 

28.11.2 Dislocations 232 

28.11.3 Double detached Themes 233 

28.12 Non-experiential Themes 234 

28.13 Clauses as Themes 235 

Module 29: The distribution and focus of information 238 

29.1 The information unit 238 

29.2 Given and New information 240 

29.3 Unmarked Focus and marked Focus 241 

29.4 Event utterances 242 

29.5 Ellipsis 243 

29.5.1 Textual ellipsis 243 

29.5.2 Situational ellipsis 244 

29.6 Substitution 244 

Module 30: The interplay of Theme-Rheme and Given-New 246 

30.1 Thematic progression 246 

30.1.1 Simple linear progression 247 

30.1.2 Continuous progression (constant Theme) 247 

30.1.3 Derived Themes 248 

30.2 Clefting: /f-clefts and wh-clefts 249 

30.2.1 Discourse functions of the /f-cleft 250 

30.2.2 Discourse functions of the wfi-cleft 250 

30.2.3 Variants of the wh-cleft 251 

30.3 The active-passive alternative 252 

30.3.1 Promoting one participant, demoting another 253 

30.3.2 Choosing to be informative 254 

30.3.3 Passives without an Agent 254 

30.3.4 Making smooth transitions 255 

30.3.5 The gef-passive 256 

30.4 The presentative function of existential clauses 257 

30.4.1 Derived existentials 258 

30.4.2 Short existentials 258 

30.4.3 Extended existentials 259 

30.4.4 There-structures as states of affairs 259 

30.5 Extraposition of clauses 260 
30.5.1 Raised elements as new Themes 261 

30.6 Postponement 262 
30.6.1 Postponement with ditransitive verbs 262 

Further reading 263 

Exercises 263 




1 Theme is an element of the thematic structure of a clause, of which the other 
element is Rheme. It is therefore a different category from the syntactic Subject 
and from the discourse category of Topic - what the message is about - 
although these three often coincide in one wording. 

2 It is convenient to think of Topics as organised hierarchically according to their 
level of operation: a global topic is what the whole text or discourse is about, 
an episode topic represents what a shorter, but integrated, stretch of talk or 
writing is about. Local topics are the main referents that persist throughout a 
stretch of text by means of anaphora, establishing a participant frame or referent 
chain. They are the topics most clearly related to grammatical categories. 
English makes use of certain devices to introduce new referents, potential topics, 
into the discourse and to maintain topic continuity. 

3 Theme is identified as the first clause constituent and communicatively is the 
point of departure of the message. When Theme conflates with Topic and 
Subject it can be called topical Theme. When Theme is realised by a temporal 
or spatial Adjunct it is a circumstantial Theme, which sets up a time-space frame 
within which the participant chain develops. More marked Themes such as 
fronted Complement and Object have a local textual function, such as initiating 
a change of direction by means of contrast. Relating Theme to grammar, Theme 
is unmarked when it coincides with the expected element, such as Subject in a 
declarative clause. When some other element is brought to initial position it is 
a marked Theme, and carries some additional significance in the discourse. 
Objects, Complements and Adjuncts can be thematised or fronted. Whole 
clauses can be thematised in complex sentences. 

4 Other items which tend to be placed at the beginning of the clause may be 
considered to be part of the Theme. These include connective Adjuncts such as 
however, stance Adjuncts such as personally, vocatives [Doctor]) and discourse 
markers such as Well. In this way we can talk of 'multiple Themes'. They are 
not, however, topics. A subordinate clause in initial position may be considered 
as Theme of a clause complex. 

Our attention in the two previous chapters has centred on two kinds of meaning: 
experiential meaning, which is encoded in the grammar in terms of participants, 
processes and circumstances, and interpersonal meaning, as encoded by the mood 
structures. We now turn to a third type of meaning, which helps us to organise and relate 
individual sentences and utterances within our discourse. This is textual meaning. We 
will be considering three important dimensions of textual meaning which have a place 
in English grammar and contribute to discourse coherence: first, the Theme-Rheme 
textual structure and its relation to Topic; second, the order of constituents in the 
clause and how the normal order may be altered to achieve different textual effects; and 
third, the distribution and focus of information, which makes an essential 
contribution to coherence and understandability in spoken and written English. 


To start, consider the following versions of the same piece of information about a coach 

1 We'll reach Toledo, but not Seville, before noon 

2 Before noon we'll reach Toledo but not Seville. 

3 Toledo, but not Seville, we'll reach before noon. 

All three utterances have the same experiential meaning: the content is the same. All 
three would normally be used to make a statement, and so they are interpersonally 
equivalent too. The difference between 1, 2 and 3 lies in the textual component of 
meaning: the information is the same, but the message is arranged or 'packaged' in 
different ways, and the different forms highlight different aspects of the message. More 
specifically, the element which occupies first position in the clause is different in the 
three examples: in 1 it is we, in 2 it is before noon and in 3 it is Toledo. This element is 
the Theme of the clause. Since first position is salient, what to put in it is an important 
choice, particularly in connected discourse. 


Theme and Rheme are the two components which together make up the organisational 
construct that is the thematic structure of the clause. The Theme comes first and is 
identified as the first constituent in the clause. What follows is the Rheme. 

Looking at the clause as a unit of communication, we can say that Theme is the clause 
constituent which, whatever its syntactic function, is selected to be the point of departure 
of the clause as message. What goes in initial position is important for both speaker and 
hearer. It represents the angle from which the message is projected and sets up a frame 
which holds at least to the end of the clause. For the speaker, the communicative choice 
associated with Theme is 'What notion shall I take as my starting-point in this clause? 
Shall I start by saying where we are going? Or shall I start with the 'time-frame' - before 
noon? Or with the places we'll visit?' From whichever point of departure we choose, the 


rest of the clause must proceed. For the hearer or reader Theme acts as a signal, creating 
expectations and laying the foundation for the hearer's mental representation of how 
the message will unfold. Given these cognitive and communicative functions, it is not 
surprising that the element in initial position is so important. 

While the Theme lays the basis of the message, the Rheme says something in relation 
to it. Typically, important new information is presented in the Rheme. Let's diagram 
this thematic structure on to our previous examples: 

Theme Rheme 

1 We '11 reach Toledo, but not Seville, before noon. 

2 Before noon we'll reach Toledo but not Seville. 

3 Toledo, but not Seville we'll reach before noon. 


In selecting Theme, speakers must choose between a neutral order of clause con- 
stituents or a marked order. The order of clause elements in 1 has the Subject as Theme. 
This is the neutral, unmarked choice in a declarative clause, used when there is no 
good reason to depart from the usual. Any other constituent but the Subject will be 
marked, and signals an additional meaning. In the case of 2 the Theme is a circum- 
stance of time, syntactically an Adjunct, and is marked. However, it does not strike us 
as very unusual. This is because adjuncts of time can occupy several positions in the 
clause. Theme 3 is an Object participant whose normal position is after the verb. Objects 
are not so mobile and sound highly marked in English when brought to initial position. 
Marked constituent orders always signal some additional meaning and have to be 
motivated. Thematised Objects tend to express a contrast with something said or 
expected by the hearer. By specifying Toledo but not Seville as the Object, the speaker 
refers explicitly to a contrary expectation and justifies the thematised element. We will 
return shortly to the most frequent types of marked Theme. For the moment, you can 
'feel' that certain elements sound more striking than others when in initial position. 

From these considerations, it is clear that the Theme of a clause represents a choice, 
both as the absolute point of departure of a discourse and also that of each subsequent 
clause and of each paragraph. It gives us the choice of taking as point of departure one 
or other participant in the situation described, or something else, such as a circumstance. 
It can serve to link up with what has gone before in the discourse and it helps to push 
the message forward. Because sentences do not normally occur in isolation, and 
previous sentences and utterances condition later ones, not all thematic choices will be 
equally appropriate from the point of view of creating a coherent whole. 


All the examples seen so far are of declarative clauses. In these the unmarked Theme 
is Subject. Non-declarative clauses, that is, interrogatives and imperatives, have 


unmarked Themes derived from their respective clause type, as illustrated in the 
examples below. 

In examples, 4 to 7, the starting-point of the clause is the expected one, which 
announces the clause-type. Theme is marked when any other but the expected one is 
placed in initial position, as in examples 8 to 10. Marked Themes in non-declarative 
clauses are relatively uncommon. 

Unmarked Themes 

4 Are we going to Toledo? Operator + subject in yes/ no interrogative 

5 When will we get there? Wh-v/ord in w/2-interrogative 

6 Have your tickets ready! Base form of verb in 2nd person (imperative) 

7 Let's go for a swim instead. Let's in 1st person (imperative) 

Marked Themes 

8 We are going where? Non wh-sutyect in a wA-interrogative 

9 Do hurry up, all of you! Emphatic do in an imperative 
10 You keep quiet! Subject in an imperative 

In yes/ no interrogatives in English, unmarked Theme is the Finite operator (see 3.1), 
together with the Subject, as in 4. In wA-interrogatives, the Theme is the wh-v/ord as in 
5. In 2nd person imperative clauses, unmarked Theme is the verb, as in 6, and let's 
in first person imperatives, as in 7. Any other order is marked. When the wA-element 
is displaced, as in 8, the element that remains as Theme (we) is marked for a wh- 
interrogative. Emphatic do, as in 9, and the Subject you, as in 10, are marked Themes in 
the imperative. 


Topic is a discourse category which corresponds to 'what the text, or part of the text, 
is about'. A whole book, chapter, essay or lecture can have a topic, for instance, 'car 
maintenance' or 'the English novel in the 20th century'. A topic which coherently 
organises a whole piece of language can be called a global topic. (More exactly, of 
course, it is speakers and writers who have topics and do the organising of the text.) On 
an intermediate level, paragraphs or sections in writing and 'episodes' in talk each 
have their own topics. In writing, these will typically be organised under the 'umbrella' 
of the global topic, but they display an internal coherence of their own. Finally, 
utterances and sentences have topics which contribute to the episode and help to build 
up the discourse as a whole. We call these local topics. 

All three levels of topic are integrated in normal texts and discourses. Local topics 
are usually the only ones that have a direct grammatical realisation. They are associated 
with the main referential entities represented in speakers' sentences and utterances, 
which to be coherent will have to relate in some way to the higher levels of topicality 
of the discourse as a whole. Sentence and utterance topics are the most relevant to the 


study of grammar, because this is one area in which discourse interfaces with a 
'pragmatic grammar'. In a functional grammar of English, we are interested in seeing 
how the category of mainly local topic interacts with Subject and with Theme. 


A number of cognitive features have been associated with major topic entities. First, the 
topic entity is inherent to the event described and it initiates the action. 

Second, the topic entity is typically high on what is called the empathy hierarchy. 
This has to do with what attracts our empathy. It starts from the speaker, since we all 
empathise most with ourselves, and continues as follows: 

Speaker > hearer > human > animal > physical object > abstract entity 

After the speaker, the hearer - as co-participant in a conversation - can be important, 
and is included with the speaker in the inclusive use of 'we', as in 1. But in many 
discourses a 3rd-person topic is even more common, in that we frequently talk and write 
about people, creatures and things distinct from the speaker and hearer. Abstract entities 
come last in the empathy hierarchy. 

A third feature is definiteness. This is a subjective factor since it depends on whether 
speakers and hearers have established empathy with the topic. When contact has been 
established, the topic is easily accessible and is definite. 

Fourth, the topic is the most salient participant on the scene of discourse. 

From the point of view of cognitive salience, all these features are closely associated 
with the Subject function in English. The prototypical Subject referent is inherent to the 
event described in the clause; it fulfils the semantic function of Agent, if there is an Agent, 
and initiates the action. It is typically human and definite and is the main participant at 
any one point on the scene of discourse as represented in a particular clause or 
utterance. Subject and Topic are therefore closely related in English. (It must be pointed 
out that this does not imply that all Subjects have these characteristics.) 

These features are not, however, necessarily associated with Theme. Theme and 
Topic are quite different types of category. Topics are what a text, section or clause is 
about, and Topic is always conceptualised as an entity or a nominalisation (Module 
21). Theme, on the other hand, is what the speaker or writer chooses as the point 
of departure for the message in any one clause or sentence. It may be an entity, a 
circumstance or an attribute. Only entities initiate referential chains. Let's look now at 
the main types of themes, starting from the most central. 


Themes which conflate with Subject are participants in the transitivity structures 
and typically refer to persons, creatures and things. As such, they are the most likely 
candidates to fulfil the discourse role of Topic or 'topical Theme' at clause level. They 
are typically presented by the speaker as identifiable or at least accessible to the hearer 


and are usually encoded by full nominal groups or proper names when introduced for 
the first time. Important Theme-Topic-Subject referents set up referent chains which 
can transcend clausal boundaries, maintaining topic continuity as long as the speaker 
or writer wishes. This is an important test for 'aboutness'. Many referents enter the 
discourse, but only a few are selected to be major topics. 

We can track the referent chain, which can also be seen as an identity chain, of a 
major referent as it is repeated across several clauses by an anaphoric pronoun, by an 
alternative NG or by repetition of the name or proper noun. Such is the case in the 
extract about the American artist Andy Warhol from a leaflet at the Tate Modern in 
London. Andy Warhol is one of the painters whose pictures figure in the exhibition. 
Visitors are establishing contact with him through his pictures and through the following 

Andy Warhol (1 962), called the 'Pope of Pop', cleverly fashioned his use of popular 
culture into a highly distinctive style. Working from his New York studio, called The 
Factory, he adopted mechanical processes of reproduction like stencilling and 
silkscreen printing to produce serial images taken from the media, as in Twenty-Five 
Coloured Marilyns (1 962). Warhol wanted to dissolve the distinctions between 'high 
art', the kind you go to a museum to see, and 'low art', the kind used in advertise- 
ments. Yet he was capable of many shades of irony, and [zero anaphor] produced 
some of the icons of American art, including Ambulance Disaster. 

The 'referent chain' of this paragraph can be shown graphically as follows: Andy Warhol 
(Subject, proper name) - he (Subject pron.) - Warhol (Subject, surname) - he (Subject 
pron.) - zero (anaphora in which the subject pronoun is omitted in coordinated clauses). 
Indefinite, and therefore unidentified, but specific referents as Subject Themes are 
also found in English, however. We might start up a conversation by saying A man I met 
in Beirut once told me a good story. At this point in the discourse we haven't established 
contact with either the man or the story, and for this reason both are presented as 
indefinite. Similarly, news items in the press often present an indefinite (but specific) 
Subject Theme such as 'an amateur yachtsman' in the text below, which can set up an 
identity chain whose referent is identified only in the second clause. (The NG Theme 
in the headline is indefinite too.with the indefinite article 'a' omitted, as is usual in 

Fogbound sailor was yards from shore 

An amateur yachtsman has spent four days fearing that he was in the middle of the 
North Sea, unaware that he was 1 00 yards from shore. 

Allan McKeand, a retired industrial chemist from Skipton, North Yorkshire, ran 
into fog off the North East coastal town of Redcar on Monday. 



New referents have to be introduced into the discourse in order to be discussed. Some 
languages have specific morphological markers to indicate that something is being 
presented as a potential new Topic. English has no such morphological devices, but 
there are still ways of presenting new referents into the discourse. These include the 

1 The subject of an intransitive clause (including copular clauses) can present or 
identify a new entity. Such is the case in the italicised NG that identifies the fogbound 
sailor in the second of the two paragraphs in the news item. When spoken, extra 
pitch and stress (see 29.1) help the hearer to make contact with the new referent. 

2 When the Subject is known, the direct object often introduces a new entity: I saw 
a most extraordinary person in the park this afternoon. It has been estimated that 
between them the subject of an intransitive verb and the object of a transitive verb 
account for the majority of new entities introduced in spoken discourse. 

3 Unstressed there with be -or a presentative verb such as appear, which has the same 
effect - can introduce a new referent, as in There was a good programme on 
television last night (see 30.4). 

4 A statement can explicitly inform the hearer what the Topic is going to be, as in 
Today I want to talk to you about genetic engineering. 

5 Inversion of a copular clause can introduce a new Topic, as in Worst of all was the 
lack of fresh water (see 28.9). 

It must be emphasised that not every entity introduced into the discourse is maintained 
as a major topic with its own identity chain. Many do not survive the first mention, 
such is the volume of incoming detail to be processed mentally. In conversation, estab- 
lishing a discourse topic is eminently collaborative, and some new entities may not be 
considered newsworthy enough to survive. 


Among the marked Themes, Circumstantial Adjuncts - particularly those of time and 
place - are the least unusual. Comparing the examples below, we can say that the 
circumstantials in London last year have been transferred from their normal position in 
the Rheme to initial position; that is, they have been thematised or 'fronted'. 

Theme Rheme 

We did a lot of sightseeing in London last year. 

In London last year, we did a lot of sightseeing. 

The function of such circumstantials is to set the necessary temporal and/or spatial 
coordinates of the text world within which the participants move, establishing a time- 
frame or place-frame for the rest of the message. Such frames or settings can hold 
over wide spans of discourse, until a different frame is set up. The exhibition leaflet in 


which Warhol figures has many such temporal spans, as it describes the chronological 
progression of modem art. 

The break between European and American art 

In the first decades of the twentieth century Paris was the centre of modern art. Picasso, 
Braque and Matisse all worked there; Cubism was born there. The first part of this 
exhibition describes the dialogue that took place between Europe and America that 
gave rise to American modernism . . . 

By the early 1940s young American artists made the conscious decision to 
disconnect the line to Europe. They wanted to provoke and shock, to be the standard- 
bearers of the avant-garde in a specifically American way. This radical group of artists 
launched the revolutionary movement called Abstract Expressionsim that by 1 950 
had successfully invented a new contemporary art vocabulary. And, for the first time 
in the history of Western art, the centre of the artistic avant-garde shifted away from 
Europe to America. 

Initial circumstantials of time constitute a useful device for structuring lengthy stretches 
of text on a chronological basis. Time and place adjuncts do not initiate cohesive chains, 
however, although they can be referred to anaphorically in subsequent clauses by 
the adverbs there and then, respectively: We went to the theatre there, too, and it was then 
that I learned some Cockney slang. Locations such as Paris, when Subject, can set up 
topical chains and can also be followed by co-referential there, as in the text. 

There is competition between subject and adjunct Themes for initial position. If 
chronological sequencing is adopted as a method of development of the text, as in 
this extract, temporal Themes are chosen to mark crucial points, while the topic (Paris, 
young American artists) takes second position, although it is Subject. The topical parti- 
cipant chain of the young American artists is built up within the time-span created by 
the Theme. Temporal adjuncts which are not thematic, such as by 1950, are back- 
grounded by their position within a topical chain. Nevertheless they can signal important 
temporal landmarks such as turning points, shifts and the end of a previous time-span 
as in the case of by 1950. While circumstantial Themes are important in mapping 
the surface development, it is the topic referents, (participant Themes when initial), 
however, which structure the cognitive development of the text as a whole, in terms of 
its global topic. 


Apart from contrast, another motivation for thematising direct objects is that of 
retrospective linking to something in the previous sentence or context: 

Moussaka you ordered, and moussaka you've got. 

Janet asked me to bring her some tea from London. This I did. 


When subject complements are thematised they tend to occur as evaluative 
comments made spontaneously in context, often in response to another speaker. In 
each case, there is retrospective linking. Identifying clauses, such as The music was 
the best of all, are reversible. When reversed, as in the second example, they look both 
backwards and forwards, linking to something just said, but also marking a shift to 
something new. 

[How did the meeting go?] - A complete waste of time it was (Subject Complement. 

The unmarked order: It was a complete waste of time.) 
[Was the festival a success?] Not bad. The best was the music, (reversed identifying 

clause from The music was the best.) 
Fantastic I call it! (Object Complement. Unmarked order: / call it fantastic.) 


28.10.1 Negative adverbs 

When we place negative adverbs such as never in initial position, we seem to be 
responding to a communicative human need to foreground and emphasise the negation. 
But while Never! can be used as a one-word full negative response in conversation, 
thematised negative constituents are much less easy to use in English than in some 
other languages. This is because they trigger the inversion of an existing auxiliary (or 
do-operator) with the subject. Furthermore, thematised negatives have an emphatic, 
marked effect, as can be seen from the following famous utterance made by Winston 
Churchill after the Battle of Britain in the Second World War. The second, more recent 
quotation, was made as a comment on television about the IRA's apology in 2002 for 
the loss of life of non-combatants over three decades. 

Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few. 
Never before has the IRA acknowledged the loss of life in its 30-year paramilitary 

In everyday use such a rhetorical effect may be undesirable, and it is best to reserve 
fronted negative elements for emphatic statements or directives. With the imperative, 
there is no inversion, as the base form of the verb is used: Never say 'never again^ Certain 
dependent clauses of condition are likewise fronted: Should you wish to change your mind, 
please let us know. The negative adjuncts never and under no circumstances, fronted semi- 
negatives such as hardly, scarcely and only + an adverb of time all have a marked effect 
when fronted. Their unmarked position before the main verb avoids this problem (I have 
never seen . . . You must under no circumstances leave . . .). 

The positive and negative elements most commonly thematised in everyday spoken 
English are so and neither or nor as substitute words (see 29.6). They behave like initial 
negatives, provoking operator-subject ordering, but they have no rhetorical effect. 


All my friends passed the driving-test and so did I. 

Never have I seen such a mess! 

Under no circumstances must medicines be left within reach of children. 

Only then did I realise what he really meant. 

28.10.2 Negative Objects 

These produce the same inversion, but are much less common. Negative subjects do 
not produce inversion. Compare: Not a thing could the patient remember, where not a 
thing is Object, with Nobody could remember a thing, where nobody is Subject. 

28. 1 0.3 Adverbs followed by verbs of motion 

Initial adverbs such as up, down, in and deictics such as here, there and then are commonly 
used with verbs of motion such as come, go, run. In short spoken utterances they 
accompany or signal actions, such as Inyougeti (helping someone into a car) or There/ 
Here you go\ (handing something to someone). There is no inversion when the subject 
is a pronoun. With a full nominal group, however, the verb and the subject invert: Down 
came the rain and up went the umbrellas: There goes my last dollari Here comes the bus. 
In certain types of written texts such as historical narrative in tourist brochures, this 
structure can be used to mark a new stage in the narrative, and in such cases usually 
initiates a new paragraph, as in: 

Then came the Norman Conquest. 

Only simple tenses are used in this structure, not the progressive or perfect combinations. 
Thematised verbs rarely occur in the declarative clause in English. When they do, it 
is the non-finite part that is thematised: 

([He told me to run,) so] run I did. (Unmarked order: He told me to run, so I did run) 

In the media non-finite and finite forms are sometimes fronted, together with the rest 
of the clause: 

Coming up to the stage now is this year's winner of the Oscar . . . 
Snapped back the 18-year-old princess: 'No comment'. 

28. 1 0.4 Detached predicatives 

These are units headed by a noun, an adjective or a participle. They are closely tied 
to the subject but, instead of occupying a position after the verb, they are fronted, and 
have the status of supplementives, with an adjunctive function: 

A Saxon princess, she was born at Exning near Newmarket around AD 630, the 
daughter of Anna, King of the East Angles. 


These fronted phrases are common in such genres as fiction, history, advertising and 
tourism, where they provide an economical means of packing information around a 
main topic entity, without holding up the narrative. When thematic, they are 
retrospective, linking up with the immediately preceding text. When they are placed 
after the subject, they add extra details about the topic entity as in the daughter of Anna, 
King of the East Angles. 


28. 11.1 Absolute Theme 

The Themes analysed so far all have a place within the syntax and semantics of the 
clause. This is not the only type, however. Across the world's languages, a very basic 
way of presenting a 'newsworthy' piece of information is by means of a detached 
lexical NG standing outside the clause. This 'Chinese-style topic' is always a definite 
NG or proper name which does not function as a constituent of the clause which follows 
it. The construction, here called Absolute Theme, is common in the spoken registers of 
many European languages, as illustrated by the following sentence, from Spanish: 

Los Beatles, sin Sgt. Pepper no tendriamos ni la mitad de la musica pop de ahora. 

( The Beatles) (without Sgt. Pepper) (we wouldn't have) (even half the pop music [we 
have] now) 

The Theme The Beatles is completely detached, with no grammatical relations con- 
necting it to the second part of the message. Nevertheless, it provides a pragmatic frame 
by which the connection is made inferentially, based on contextual knowledge. 

Absolute Themes in English occur sometimes in spontaneous talk; they do not 
occur normally in written text. Here are two instances, both from news interviews on 
television. The first is in the context of a public appeal in a police inquiry, the second 
during the anthrax alarm in the aftermath of 1 1 September 2001. In both, the Absolute 
Theme provides a personal frame to the utterance. 

Now Manchester United, their players have been holding up a banner. 
The woman who died in New York, that's obviously affecting her colleagues who work 
in the hospital. 

28.11.2 Dislocations 

Dislocations are different from Absolute Themes in that the 'dislocated' element is a 
constituent of the clause, frequently subject (as in the examples below), and is repeated 
by a co-referential pronoun (it and those respectively here) in its normal position within 
the clause. The connection is therefore encoded grammatically, not established 
inferentially. The first two illustrate what are usually known as left-dislocations. The 
last one is a right-dislocation. 


That letter, was it from Bruce? (corresponding to: Was that letter from 

And those flood waters that affected the Czech Republic, those are the ones that are 

sweeping towards Germany? 
Is it new, that top - No, I bought it (Non-dislocated form: Is that top new?) 

last year. 

One explanation sometimes given of left-dislocation is that the speaker presents the 
main person or thing s/he wishes to talk about (that letter, those flood waters that affected 
the Czech Republic) without having worked out the structure to be used. A more positive 
view, cognitively and communicatively, is that by 'detaching' the salient referent and 
putting it first, the speaker side-steps grammatical complexity, presenting a 'topic- 
comment' structure that is more easily grasped than the normal one. Interrogatives 
and relatives are complex structures in English, and it is in these cases that we can find 

Right-dislocations are more problematic to analyse as Themes, as they are not initial, 
but instead are placed after the clause as a full NG, (that top) whose referent had been 
previously introduced as a pronoun (it). The traditional view is that the final nominal is 
an afterthought, which again, implies a construction failure on the part of the speaker. 
A cognitive-functional explanation, however, suggests a motivation for this structure, 
namely, that of making explicit a referent (that top) which was accessible to the speaker 
in the context, but perhaps not so obvious to the hearer, or not in the speaker's mind at 
the moment. 

Affectivity may provide a different kind of motivation, as in the next two examples. 
In the first the referent was an escaped pig, called McQueen; the second a relative of 
the speaker. In the third, a deictic pronoun this refers to the immediate context: 

And he not only flew over the fence, he could swim, that pig. (news report) 
He's a cool dude, Sam. (author's data) 

It's a nice place, this. 

28.1 1 .3 Double detached Themes 

Two detached Themes may occur together, the first an Absolute, the second a left- 
dislocation. The relationship between them must be pragmatically relevant. 

1 And Ben, his sister, she has disabling osteo-arthritis. 

2 And this consultant, what I like about him is that he doesn't pass everyone on to 
his underlings; he attends to you himself. 

3 The white house opposite, the woman who lives there, her dog, he's had to be put 

In 2 there is a w/i-cleft, what I like about him (see 30.2), which is not detached. Both of 
these combinations are heard in spoken English, but rarely find their way into the written 
language. In 3 there are three detached nominal groups, the last of which, her dog, is 
picked up by the pronoun he. The function of multiple detachments is to 'anchor' the 


final referent to other related referents, which are presumed to be accessible to the 


The Theme of an utterance is essentially a constituent of the transitivity structures. It 
is possible to allow for a number of non-experiential Themes, which precede the 
experiential Theme. These can be grouped into two main kinds: interpersonal Themes 
and textual Themes. 

Interpersonal Themes 

These include three main subtypes. Continuative Themes (or discourse markers), 
such as Oh, well, Ah, please (see 8.2.8), have various functions as markers of attention, 
response, request, state of knowledge, surprise and hesitation, among others. Overall, 
they signal acknowledgements by speakers and transitions from one speaker to another 
or a move to another point in spoken discourse. Examples are: 

Now who wants to come to the castle? - Oh, actually I have to do some shopping. 
Well, we'll see you later, then. 

Another group of interpersonal Themes, Adjuncts of stance, include three main sub- 
types: epistemic, (certainly), evidential (apparently) and evaluative (surely, surprisingly) 
1. Further sub-types include style adjuncts, such as frankly, honestly, and domain 
adjuncts, such as legally, technologically, consumerwise 2, which limit the domain of 
reference of the rest of the sentence. All are discussed and illustrated in Section 8.2.5. 

A third type is made up of vocatives, such as Doctor! Mum!, and appellatives - 
ladies and gentlemen - which address people by name or by role or status 3. 

1 Surely you could find yourself a job somewhere? Honestly, I've tried. 

2 Technologically, though, the new model hasn't been a success. 

3 Ladies and gentlemen, please take your seats. The coach will depart in five 

Textual Themes 

Textual Themes include a variety of connectors or connective adjuncts such as 
however, besides, therefore, now, first, then (non-temporal) next and anyway. These connect 
the clause to the previous part of the text by indicating relations such as addition, 
concession, reason, consequence, and so on (see 8.2.7 and 8.2.8). 

I don't feel like playing tennis. Besides, it's starting to rain. 

All these different types of element can be considered as being part of the Theme, 
as long as they are placed before the experiential theme (Subject, Circumstantial, Object 


or Complement). Most of them can function in other positions in the clause, and so 
represent a real choice when used thematically. Coordinators such as and, but and or, 
conjunctions such as when and relative pronouns such as who, which, that are inherently 
thematic and do not have alternative placements. For this reason, they will not be taken 
into account in our analyses. 

Non-defining relatives, however, because they are analysed as supplementives 
(see 2.4.1, 49.2), may be considered as having Themes and Rhemes in their own right, 
as in the following sentence, which may be analysed as two Theme-Rheme units as 

Ladies and gentlemen, this afternoon we are going to visit the cathedral, which was 
built in 1241 not long after the last of the great wars. 

Ladies and 

gentlemen, this afternoon 

we are going to visit the cathedral 




was built in 1 241 not long after the great wars. 



By including the many different classes of items within the Theme category, it is 
possible to claim that the three macro-functions of language, the experiential, the 
interpersonal and the textual, can be represented by items within the Theme. Here is 
an examples of Multiple Themes. 



Mrs Jones, 


can 1 do for you? 












Time and place are not the only types of circumstance that can be thematised: other 
types of situational frame can be established. Consider just three of the many meanings 
of as, illustrated in the following sentences: a As a gardening tool, it's not much use (role); 
b As children under five, they get in free (status); c As children, we used to roll our eyes 
whenever grandfather told us the same old story yet again (time). 

The time Adjunct in c As children . . . could be reworded as d When we were children. 
This fact enables us to see a similarity of function between circumstances realised as 


Adjuncts, as in a, b and c, and circumstances expressed as subordinate clauses as in d. 
We can say that in a unit composed of two or more clauses, the first clause acts as 
Theme to the rest. 

Coordinated clauses joined by 'and' reflect the chronological order of the events 
described. The first clause is therefore the natural temporal and factual starting-point 
of the sequence. For this reason not all coordinate clauses are coherently reversible: 

The lone rider got on his horse and rode into the sunset. 
*The lone rider rode into the sunset and got on his horse. 

Even when the clauses are reversible, the resultant meanings are likely to be different; 
for, as well as chronological sequence, other meanings such as cause and effect are 

He bought an oil-tanker and made a fortune, (i.e. his fortune resulted from his buying 

the tanker) 
He made a fortune and bought an oil-tanker, (i.e. he bought the tanker with his 


Subordinate clauses impose no obligation to maintain chronological sequencing. 
However, an initial subordinate clause takes as starting-point the meaning it encodes, 
such as reason 1, simultaneity 2 and condition 3: 

1 As you weren 't at home, I left a message on your answer-phone. 

2 As she stepped off the kerb, a cyclist crashed into her. 

3 If you don 't like it, you can probably change it for something else. 

Such Themes set up meaningful frames within which the rest of the clause develops, as 
is illustrated in the following short extract from Alan Ayckbourn's Just Between Ourselves: 

I haven't got time, mother, to start putting things in tins. If I want a nail, there's a 
nail. I bang it in and thaf s that. If I can't find a nail I use a screw. And if I can't find 
a screw, I don't bother. 

Such initial clauses also set up expectations, which obviously does not happen when 
the subordinate clause is final. For instance, compare the next two examples. Each 
contains a non-finite to-infinitive clause of purpose in initial and final position, 

4 To cure stress, try a Jacuzzi whirlpool bath. 

5 He braked hard to avoid hitting the cyclist. 

The initial purpose clause in 4 not only sets up a purpose frame, but also names the 
goal to be achieved. For this reason, the to-infinitive clause here emphasises a sense of 


premeditated purpose, which is much less explicit in 5, where the purpose clause is in 
final position. 

The two remaining types of non-finite clause, the participial -ing clause and the 
-en clause, are closely tied to the main participant in the discourse and are discussed 
in Chapter 7. The -ing clause 6 is active in meaning and expresses an action or state 
dependent upon the main situation. The -en clause 7 is passive in meaning and is 
retrospective, summing up a previous situation: 

6 Taking advantage of his present popularity, the Prime Minister called an election. 

7 Thwarted in the west, Stalin turned east. 

It is useful to remember that speakers adjust their choice of Theme to the context, 
'attending first to the most urgent task'. When the tourist guide starts with 'Ladies and 
gentlemen', for instance, s/he is doing just that: attracting the hearers' attention before 
giving them the information they need. Context is understood here to include 

the situational context in which the participants interact, including the place, the 

time and the participants themselves; 

the texual context, or 'co-text', which covers the previous spoken or written 

discourse; and 

cognitive features such as the participants' knowledge, beliefs and assumptions, in 

so far as these are relevant at any particular point in the discourse. 





1 In order to be understood, messages are divided into chunks called information 
units, which are represented in speech by tone units. These do not correspond 
to any one grammatical category, since the speaker is free to break up the 
message as desired into units which are smaller or larger than a clause. 

2 Each tone unit contains a tonic syllable, which represents the highest point of 
the focus of information. Information focus extends to the syntactic unit in 
which the tonic occurs. 

3 The tone unit in English signals the distribution of information into Given and 
New. Each information unit contains an obligatory New element and, optionally, 
a Given element, the unmarked order being Given-New. The Given is the 
information that the speaker presents as recoverable by the hearer; the New is 
the information that is presented as not recoverable by the hearer. The whole 
tone unit may contain New information, for instance at the start of a 
conversational exchange. 

4 The devices of ellipsis and substitution are used to avoid repeating 
information that is recoverable. 

5 Unmarked focus falls on the last non-anaphoric lexical item of the information 
unit. If the intonation nucleus is made to fall on some other item, it is marked and 
unequivocally represents New information. This is marked focus. Its function 
is to contrast one item with another or to add emotive colouring to the utterance. 
Focus can coincide with marked Theme and is a cohesive device in texts. 


Speakers divide their messages into chunks called information units. In the spoken 
language these are not represented directly by any one type of grammatical unit, 


although there are certain correlations. Rather, they are signalled prosodically, by 
means of the intonation system of the language. Information units are therefore defined 
in terms of the spoken language and how speakers organise it. Readers of a written 
text, however, interpret what they read by mentally assigning information units to 
the text, helped by punctuation and the grammar. 

The prosodic unit that represents a unit of spoken information is the tone unit. A 
tone unit consists potentially of a series of stressed and unstressed syllables, and always 
contains one syllable, the tonic, which is singled out by tonic prominence. That is, it 
carries the main pitch movement (for instance, falling, rising, falling and then rising, 
rising and then falling), a jump, up or down, in pitch and possibly extra stress and added 
duration. Its function is to mark the focus of information. Or rather, it signals the 
nucleus or highest point of the unit which is informationally in focus, as in the example 
below (the capitals represent the tonic syllable): 

He's arriving on THURSday. 

If this utterance were used to convey information, it is likely that there would be a jump 
in pitch up to THURS and that this syllable would have a pitch fall on it. In this example, 
the tone unit coincides with a clause. But speakers can choose to make tone units longer 
1 or shorter 2 than a clause, depending on how much of the information they want to 
make prominent. (The symbol // indicates the end of a tone unit.) Short answers, 
questions and commands can consist of a single prominent syllable, such as YES! WHY? 
or DON'T! If a speaker wishes to make the message highly informative and emphatic, 
each lexical word may be treated as an information unit, with as many tonics as there 
are words, as in 2 (where the tonic syllable in immediately is ME): 

1 I think it's a great pity she didn't GET the job // 


Speakers shorten or lengthen tone units in response to their communicative needs. This 
response is emotive rather than deliberate, and is therefore less likely to be controlled 
than, for instance, the choice of a lexical item. Variation in the length of tone units also 
depends on several factors, some cultural, others personal. According to one cognitive 
view, the intonation unit or tone group represents the limited amount of information 
that our consciousness can focus on at any one time. This has led to the 'one chunk per 
clause principle' or 'one new idea constraint', in conversation at least. For spoken 
English a short independent clause with few content words represents the typical 
information unit. 

Other grammatical units which may correspond to tone groups include various kinds 
of adjunct, especially when initial (in the late nineteen thirties, better still, unfortunately); a 
dependent clause (although it wasn't your fault); a main clause with an embedded clause 
(/ thought we were leaving), coordinated predicates with the same Subject (he's seen the 
pictures and likes them) and possibly NG Subjects (all the lonely people). The following are 
examples of utterances consisting of two tone units: 

// in the late nineteen THIRTIES // he went to HOLLYWOOD // 
// better STILL // send an E-mail // 


The following transcription illustrates how one speaker organises an episode into 
tone units of varying length, with overlapping units (in brackets) by speaker B. The dots 
and dashes (. -) represent progressively longer pauses. The speakers have been talking 
about football grounds in Britain, many of them quite old. 

Of course // the CONTINENTALS I suppose // they came in LATE // and they . 
build them - (B: PROPERLY //) you know// this MILAN ground // . there's a famous 
one THERE . ISN'T there? // . (B: erm) you know// they were saying how SUPERB 
they were // . But the one in SPAIN // was the BEST // - (B: of course //) I thought 
it was in MADRID // - was it Real MADRID// they were fan (b: they're all erm . . .) 
oh they were FANTASTIC // it showed the PHOTOGRAPHS of them // . people 
sitting there in the hot SUN // you know // smoking CIGARS// and it showed the 
crowds . EMPTYING // - (B: they had a practice - erm) EXIT //// (B: YEAH II) and 
about . thirty seconds LATER // or a minute later they were CLEAR // 


The distribution of 'Given' and 'New' information is to a great extent the motivation for 
the information unit. Each information unit contains an obligatory 'New' element, which 
is associated with the tonic of the tone unit, the focus of information. There can also 
be optional 'Given' elements of information, which are associated with the rest of 
the tone unit. Rather than a clear-cut distinction between 'Given' and 'New', however, 
there is a gradation of givenness and newness. This is compatible with the notion of 
communicative dynamism, by which the message typically progresses from low to high 
information value (see 29.3). 

The Given element is concerned with information that the speaker presents as 
recoverable by the hearer, either from the linguistic co-text, that is, what has been said 
before, or because it can be taken as 'known' from the context of situation or the context 
of culture. The New element is concerned with whatever information the speaker 
presents as not recoverable by the hearer. The following exchange illustrates the 
possible relationship of Given and New to information focus: 

A. What's new then? 

B. Well, Jim's bought a new CAR II, Norma's getting a DIVORCE II and Jamie's 
got CHICKEN-POX II, but apart from that . . . 

In each tone unit, the tonic syllable, identified here by capitals, represents the 
culmination of the New information. The syntactic unit in which the tonic occurs (a new 
CAR, a DIVORCE, CHICKEN-POX) is in each case 'in focus'. The referents of the proper 
names Jim, Norma and Jamie are treated as identifiable and Given, or at least accessible, 
in the discourse situation (that is the function of proper names) and there is a gradation 
from Given to New, with the verbs bought, getting and got marking the transition: 

Jim's bought a new CAR 
Norma's getting a DIVORCE 
Jamie's got CHICKEN-POX 
Given New 



In normal, unemphatic discourse, it is customary to start our message from what we 
think our hearer knows and progress to what s/he does not know. In other words, the 
unmarked distribution starts with the Given and progresses towards the New. This is 
often called the principle of end-focus. 

The neutral position for information focus is therefore towards the end of the 
information unit. In grammatical terms, this usually means that unmarked (end-)focus 
falls on the last non-anaphoric lexical item or name in the clause, as in the above 
exchange. Items which occur after the tonic can be taken as Given and are always 
unstressed, like about it here: 

Pete's just COMPLAINED about it. 
Given New Given 

Here, the words after complained are both grammatical rather than lexical words: that 
is, they have a largely grammatical meaning. Pronouns such as it always refer to 
something known, unless they are contrastive and therefore marked (see below). In the 
following example, the second use of WANT is anaphoric (the notion of 'wanting' occurs 
in the question), and is therefore not marked. Instead, DON'T is marked: 

A. Don't you WANT it then? B. No, I DON'T want it. 

When the focus of information is placed on the last non-anaphoric lexical item in the 
clause, almost the whole clause may be New or just one part of it. For example, Jane 
dropped the COFFEE-POT could be intended to mean that it was just the coffee-pot and 
not something else that Jane dropped; or the whole unit could contain new information. 
The amount of New material can be verified by formulating questions. In answer to the 
first, only the coffee-pot would be New and the rest Given (and probably ellipted in 
speech; see 29.3), while in answer to the second, the whole unit would represent new 

What did Jane drop? [Jane dropped] the COFFEE-POT 


What happened? Jane dropped the COFFEE-POT 


Marked focus occurs when the tonic is placed on any other syllable than the tonic 
syllable of the last non-anaphoric lexical item. Marked focus is used for the purpose of 
contrasting one item with another, as in 1 and 2, or to add an emotive overlay, as 
in 3: 

1 SHE didn't make the phone call, ROBERT did. 

2 The kids didn't SIT on the sofa, they JUMPED on it. 



The first would be used in a context in which the speaker assumes that the hearer knows 
they are talking about someone making a phone call ('make the phone call' is Given 
information). As contrastive focus treats the focused element as New information, both 
she and Robert are treated as New, even though both must be identifiable in the context. 
Focus can fall on other, non-lexical items such as pronouns, prepositions and 
auxiliaries, again with an implied contrast or correction. The following examples 
illustrate some of the possibilities of marked focus. When auxiliaries receive focus it is 
meanings such as those of polarity contrast (i.e. positive/ negative) or tense which are 
presented as New or important information: 

MY brother sold his motorbike. [not someone else's brother] 

Put the dog's bowl UNDER the table, [not ON the table] 

[Wait for me!] I AM waiting for you. [corrects first speaker's assumption that 

x is not waiting] 

[Don't forget to return the video!] [corrects the assumption that the video has 

I HAVE returned the video. not been returned.] 

[Why didn't you tell the truth?] [corrects the assumption that x did not tell 

I DID tell the truth. the truth] 

Whether for emotive reasons or for the purpose of emphasising or contrasting, it can 
happen that a single tone group contains more than one nucleus. The fall-plus-rise or 
the rise-plus-fall tones often accompany focusing of this kind. 

//It was QUITE exciting REALLY.// 
//I DO wish you'd shut UP.// 

The following advertisement illustrates the possibility speakers have of assigning focus 
to practically any item. Some of these utterances could be interpreted as contrastive, 
others simply as emphatic. 

DO you know what kind of a day I've had? 
Do YOU know what kind of a day I've had? 
Do you KNOW what kind of a day I've had? 
Do you know WHAT kind of a day I've had? 
Do you know what KIND of a day I've had? 
Do you know what kind of a DAY I've had? 
Do you know what kind of a day I'VE had? 
Do you know what kind of a day I've HAD? 
Well, DO you? 


Event utterances are usually short and typically intransitive. They provide an 
interesting exception to the principle of end-focus, in that a NG Subject receives the 
tonic stress. The reason for this is that the whole event is in Focus, and there is no 


presupposition (assumption) such as 'something is bleeding', 'something has gone out', 
'someone is coming': 

My NOSE is bleeding! 

The LIGHT'S gone out! 

[I won't be able to go away this weekend.] My PARENTS are coming. 

Event sentences are extremely common in conversation. They often occur 'out of the 
blue', that is, unrelated to what was previously said, as surprisals or interruptions of 
an ongoing discourse topic. This is not always the case however. In the third example, 
the event utterance is incorporated into the dialogue as a reason for not going away 
this weekend. In languages with flexible constituent order, this type of message would 
probably be conveyed by inversion of S-P. In English, inversion is not an option here; 
instead, stress and intonation patterns are used. 


By means of ellipsis we leave out those elements of the clause that are recoverable. 
As a result we highlight the new information and our discourse gains in cohesion and 
coherence. Information can be recovered from the linguistic co-text or from the social 
context. Ellipsis of the first type is textual and of the second situational. 

29.5.1 Textual ellipsis 

Textual ellipsis occurs when two consecutive clauses have elements in common. The 
two clauses may form part of the same utterance by one speaker 1, or they may be 
distributed between two speakers, as in 2. The words in common are omitted in the 
second clause. In English the remaining part often ends with an auxiliary or a pronoun. 
(In the examples, ellipted material is recovered in italics.) 

1 I'm sure he would help you, if he could (help you). 

2 Shall we go for a swim? - Yes, let's (go for a swim). 

3 Why can't he just send a message? And for that matter, why can't YOU? (Just 
send a message) 

Catenative verbs which take fo-infinitive clauses such as want, mean (= intend), used 
to and like obligatorily retain the to, with the rest of the clause ellipted, as in 4. 
Wh- complement clauses and questions can be ellipted, leaving the vWi-element as in 5: 

4 A fine mess you've made of things. - 1 didn't mean to (make a fine mess of things). 

5 Why can't he find you a comfortable job? - He will (find me a comfortable job), 
but I don't know when (he'll find me a comfortable job.) 

These examples illustrate final ellipsis. Medial ellipsis is featured in 6 and 7, while 8 
illustrates initial ellipsis, where ellipsis of the pronoun is an alternative analysis to zero 


6 What time does this party of Robin's start? He said [it starts at] six-to-eight. 

7 Shirley wore jeans and Tina (wore) a miniskirt. 

8 They got on the bus and (they) sat down in the front seat behind the driver. 

29.5.2 Situational ellipsis 

In conversation and writing that imitates speech, unstressed pronouns and other 
functional items are frequently ellipted, as they are recoverable from the interactional 

Can't hear a word (Subject / ellipted) 

See you soon (I'll ellipted) 

Like a drink? (Would you ellipted) 

Any news? (Is there ellipted) 

Situational ellipsis is also the organising factor in 'block language', which includes 
newspaper headlines, telegrams and other announcements. We soon reach a point, 
however, both in textual and situational ellipsis at which the exact material ellipted 
is no longer recoverable. In such cases the concept of ellipsis is strictly not applicable, 
as in: 

To let. For hire. For sale. Vacancies. Bed and Breakfast. No parking. 


Substitution likewise avoids the repetition of recoverable information; but while ellipsis 
leaves a structural slot empty, substitution replaces it by a 'filler' word. Consequently, 
the exact words which have been ellipted are not recoverable. A commonly used clausal 
substitute is do so, as in 1 below. This is not acceptable, however, where the verb is not 
agentive (for instance, know, like) and in such cases ellipsis is used, as in 2: 

1 You can hire a self-drive car, but I wouldn't advise you to do so. (hire a self- 
drive car) 

2 Some people like mangoes, others don't. (*don't do so). 

So substitutes for clause complements after verbs such as say, hope, think, expect, be 
afraid, suppose and believe. Not is the negative substitute with hope, be afraid and suppose: 

Is it going to rain tomorrow? The weather man says so (i.e. that it is going to rain). 
I hope not. (i.e. that it's not going to rain). 

So can also be used as an alternative to an auxiliary + too to substitute positively, just 
as neither alternates with auxiliary + either to substitute negatively: 

This hair-dryer makes an awful noise. So does mine. /Mine does too. /Mine too. 
I wouldn't like to live in this climate. Neither/ Nor would we. /We wouldn 't either. 


Ellipsis and substitution in nominal groups 

In nominal ellipsis we replace the head element by pronouns such as these, any, each, 
all, both, either, neither, none (I'll take these, There aren 't any left); possessives such as John 's, 
and numeratives such as the first, the next three. These are discussed in modules 46 and 
47. Nominal substitution makes use of one/ ones (I prefer the dark one(s)) this, that and the 
pronouns (an)other (see 45.7.4): 





1 From the point of view of communicative effect, the important positions in the 
clause are the initial position and the final position. We have examined 
separately the two structures involved, which are mapped on to each other: the 
Theme-Rheme thematic structure and the Given-New information structure. 
We now turn to the interplay between the two. We start by going beyond the 
clause to look at thematic progression in a paragraph. 

2 We then turn to a few of the major resources used in English for shifting 
information either to the beginning of the clause or to the end. We have already 
seen thematisation (thematic fronting), which brings an element to initial 
position. We shall next examine the much more common device of clefting, 
which places an element to be focused near the front of the clause. 

3 Equally important are the resources for shifting information towards the end of 
the clause where it receives end-focus without being marked. The function of 
the passive voice, of the existential sentence and of extraposition is in 

part just this. At the same time, a different Theme is selected. Speakers and 
writers of English make great use of all these devices to achieve coherence and 
liveliness in their speech and writing. 

4 The highlighting of newsworthiness is not the only motivation of information 
flow. Pragmatic motivations of an interpersonal kind, such as politeness, may 
be the influencing factor in the selection and ordering of clausal elements, in 
particular the order of clauses in complex sentences. 


The unmarked correlation between Given-New and Theme-Rheme is for Given to 
coincide with the Theme, and New information with some part of the Rheme. Going 


beyond the clause, a consistent progression from Given to New will help the reader's 
understanding of the text. Three basic types of thematic progression are identified: 
simple linear, continuous and derived. 

30.1.1 Simple linear progression 

In this type, something introduced as new information in the Rheme of the first clause 
is taken up to be the Theme of the second. The wording need not be identical. 

She has a huge team of people working for her. 1 Some of them have been with her 
for years. 2 

In this example, Theme 1 is she, while a huge team of people is the focused part of Rheme 
1. A semantic sub-set, some of them, then becomes the Theme of the second clause. We 
can present it graphically as follows: 

Clause 1 Theme 1 + Rheme 1 

Clause 2 Theme 2 + Rheme 2 

Adapted from Danes 1 974) 

30.1.2 Continuous progression (constant Theme) 

In this type, the same Theme, Mum, is maintained across a series of coordinated clauses, 
each with its own Rheme: 

Mum was always a hard worker 1 and (zero) had plenty of drive 2 but, in a small way, 
she was also proving to be quite a successful business woman. 3 

This type of progression can be diagrammed as follows. Note that the same Theme is 
maintained in the second clause by 'zero anaphora', which could be replaced by the 
corresponding pronoun she. 

Mum (Tl) was always a hard worker 1 (Rl) and (she)(Tl) had plenty of drive(R2), 2 
but, in a small way, she(Tl) was also proving to be quite a successful business 
woman (R3). 3 

Clause 1 Theme 1 + Rheme 1 
Clause 2 Theme 1 + Rheme 2 
Clause 3 Theme 1 + Rheme 3 

In the illustrations of these two first types of thematic progression, we find that the 
progression is made on the basis of topic referent chains. The following news item 
The 'lost' Van Gogh uses both simple linear progression and constant Theme (see 
exercise at end of chapter): 


When Vincent Van Gogh left his home in the Dutch village of Nuenen in 1895,' 
having had a blazing row with the parish priest over his use of female models, 2 he 
left hundreds of his early pictures behind in his mother's keeping. 3 Soon after, his 
mother, too, left the village for the nearby town of Breda. 4 She packed all her 
belongings, including a chest containing her son's works, onto a cart, 5 and then left 
the chest in storage with a family friend. 6 The friend, a local merchant, threw many 
of the pictures away 7 and sold others off the back of his cart for about five cents 
a-piece. 8 

30.1.3 Derived Themes 

In this third type, the different themes of a number of Theme-Rheme structures all relate 
to a 'hypertheme' or 'global topic'. The following text comes from Aldous Huxley's The 
Doors of Perception, in which he describes research on the drug mescalin. The 
Hypertheme is stated in the first sentence. 

Mescalin research has been going on sporadically ever since the days of Lewin and 
Havelock Ellis. Chemists have not merely isolated the alkaloid; they have learned how 
to synthesize it, so that the supply no longer depends on the sparse and intermittent 
crop of a desert cactus. Alienists have dosed themselves with mescalin in the hope 
thereby of coming to a better, first-hand understanding of their patients' mental 
processes. Working unfortunately upon too few subjects within too narrow a range 
of circumstances, psychologists have observed and catalogued some of the drug's 
more striking effects. Neurologists and physiologists have found out something about 
the mechanisms of its action upon the central nervous system. And at least one 
professional philosopher has taken mescalin for the light it may throw on such ancient, 
unsolved riddles as the place of mind in nature and the relationship between the brain 
and consciousness. 

The Hypertheme is mescalin research. From this, the passage develops in terms of the 
classes of researchers (the Themes, derived from the Hypertheme) and what they did 
(the Rhemes) (see diagram opposite).. 

A fourth type of progression has a split rheme, which is a combination of types 1 
and 2. This can be illustrated by the following text, which is about some photographs 
of Saddam Hussein: 

I had two particular favourites: in one he sported a green eyeshade and carried a 
tennis racket; in the other he wore a university gown and had a mortar-board on 
his head. 

Clause 1 I had two particular favourites 

Clauses 2-3 In one he sported a green eyeshade and carried a tennis racket 


Clauses 4-5 In the other he wore a university gown and a mortar-board on his 

This can be expressed graphically 

Clause 1 Tl - Rl. The Rheme implies two items, A and B: 

Clauses 2-3 In one (A) (T2 R2) 

Clauses 4-5 In the other (B) . 

. (T2" . 


Hypertheme: mescalin research 

and physiologists 

R 5 : at least one 




In clefting, we re-organise the content of a single clause into two related parts. The effect 
of the resulting structures is to focus on one element, the New, which always follows a 
form of the verb be. There are two kinds of cleft: the it-cleft and the wh-cleft. Here is 
an example of each. Compare these with the plain version: They need money. 

It's MONEY (that) they need (if-cleft) 
What they need is MONEY (wh-cleft) 

Both types of cleft have MONEY in strong focus; the rt-cleft brings the focus (marked 
by tonic stress) near the front of the first unit; the wh-cleft has the focus at the end 
of the second unit. There is a lesser stress, here underlined, on need, the last word of 
the unit containing Given or presupposed information. Presupposed information is 
that which is assumed by the speaker, without being asserted. Here what is assumed 
is 'they need something'. 

If spoken, then, the devices of intonational prominence and syntactic structure 
reinforce each other to single out money in these examples. Let's look first at the it-cleft. 
This consists of the pronoun it, + a form of the verb be, + the strongly focused item + 
a clause starting with a relative pronoun such as who, that or which: 


It was last TUESDAY that I met Richard (compare: I met Richard last TUESDAY) 
It was the WOMEN that did the bartering. It was the WOMEN that actually got 
enough to feed the family. bnc F7L 174 

Who must register for VAT? It's the PERSON, not the BUSINESS, who is registered 

for VAT. BNC FAU 761-762 

In such examples, it is a dummy element with no other function but to provide a subject 
for the verb be. The item in focus can be a noun group, a prepositional group, a pronoun 
or a clause. 

30.2. 1 Discourse functions of the ir-cleft 

The main function of the it-cleft is to mark contrastive focus. The contrast is very 
often implicit, as in Tuesday (not another day), the women, not the men; but the contrast 
may be made explicit, as in It's the person, not the business, who is registered for VAT. 

A different, non-contrastive use, is illustrated in the following sentence from Huxley's 

1 It was in 1886 that the German pharmacologist, Louis Lewin, published the first 
systematic study of the cactus, to which his own name was subsequently given. 

The function here is not to contrast 1886 with a different date. Rather, the function of 
such clefts, which often highlight expressions of time or place, is to signal the beginning 
of an episode in discourse. It may be the very beginning of the text, as in 1, or an oral 
announcement, 2; otherwise, the cleft may signal a shift to a new episode 3: 

2 It is with great pleasure that I announce the name of this year's winner . . . 

3 It was only years later that I realised what he meant. 

30.2.2 Discourse functions of the wh-cleft 

1 What we want is WATney's 

This was a famous advertising slogan, at one time, for Watney's beer. It is clearly much 
more emphatic than the plain version 2 and even more than the rt-cleft 3. 

2 We want WATney's 

3 It's Watney's (that) we want. 

In both types of cleft there is presupposed information: in this case, that we 
want something. But while the /deleft 3 suggests contrast (Watney's, not Heineken, for 
instance), the w/2-cleft 1 suggests exclusiveness at the point in the discourse when it is 
used. (It's ONLY Watney's we want, and no other). The wA-cleft consists of a wA-word, 
of which by far the most common is what, followed by a clause containing Given 
or presupposed information, then a form of be, followed by the New information: 


//What we want// (it is presupposed: that we want something) is Watney's// 
Given New 

This structure is also sometimes called a thematic equative, since it is of the form 
'X = Y'. 

30.2.3 Variants of the wh-cleft 

The one(s) who/that acts as replacement for the now ungrammatical who-cleft: 

The one who told me the news was Lizzy herself. (* Who told me the news was Lizzy 

All (that) is used instead of *all what. ' That' is usually omitted. 

All you need is love. 

Reversed wft-clefts have the main focus at the beginning of the first unit, not at the 
end after be, as in regular wh-clefts. Some combinations (that's what/ why/ how/ the way) 
are stereotyped, as are the thing is/ the problem is, which can also be included here: 

All you need is LOVE, (regular wh-cleft) 
LOVE is all you need, (reversed wh- cleft) 

What you should do is THIS, (regular wh-cleft) 
THIS is what you should do. (reversed wh-cleft) 

That's what I told you. 
That's why we came. 

The effect is to put the new information as end-focus, but to indicate its selectively New 
status very clearly. The exclusiveness inherent in an element focused in this way allows 
the wh-cleft to be used for two important discourse purposes: (a) to introduce a new 
topic (in the New part), as in 1; and (b) to correct a previous statement or assumption, 
as in 2. 

1 What I don't understand is why they don't have a secretary in that place. 

2 What he did was take the money and run. 

The Wh-cleft identifies a particular element exclusively. In this it differs from the basic 
clause structure and from the ordinary cleft. Compare: 

We all need a holiday. (neutral: no doubt we need other things too) 

It's a holiday we all need. (implied contrast with something else) 

What we all need is a holiday, (the only thing focused on) 


WA-clefts are always reversible, and this property distinguishes them from wh- 
embedded clauses which are not clefts. Compare the following: 

What he said was that he didn't like the play. (wA-cleft) 
What he said was very interesting, (nominal relative clause) 

The first is a wh-cleft, corresponding to the plain version He said that he didn't like the 
play. The next is NOT a w/2-cleft. There is no equivalent to the form *He said very 
interesting. Another way to test this is to try for reversibility. The first is reversible, the 
second is not: 

That he didn't like the play was what he said. 
*Very interesting was what he said. 

Certain stereotyped wA-clefts (which are not all reversible) such as What happened was 
. . ., What I mean is . . . and The thing is . . . are also used for a variety of purposes such 
as pre-signals to certain speech acts, such as giving an excuse or an explanation: 

What happened was that I missed the last train. 

The thing is, we have tickets for a concert that evening. 

What I mean is we should all try to convince him. 


In describing situations which involve two participants, it is usually possible to take one 
or other participant as Subject and Theme/Topic. This is done in English by means of 
the active-passive voice alternative: 

The President has released the prisoners, (active voice) 

The prisoners have been released [by the President], (passive voice) 

In the active construction, the Agent is mapped on to Subject and Theme/Topic, while 
the Affected is in final position and receives normal, unmarked end-focus: 

The President has released the prisoners. 
Agent Affected 

Subject Direct Object 

Theme/Topic Rheme 

Unmarked end-focus 

In the passive construction these correspondences are reversed. The Affected is now 
promoted to Subject and provides the point of departure, while the Agent is demoted 
from its privileged position as Subject and is usually omitted. If present, it occupies final 
position and receives normal end-focus: 


The prisoners have been released [by the President] 
Affected Agent 

Subject Adjunct 

Theme/ Topic Rheme 

[optional end-focused element] 

We can see that the active-passive alternative allows speakers and writers to exploit 
the two main positions in the clause, the beginning and the end. In each case, a single 
clause can be arranged so that important new information is placed in end-position, 
while already known information is placed at the beginning. What is new and important 
and what is known is of course estimated by the speaker, and is dependent on the 
context and the estimated state of knowledge at that point in the discourse. 

30.3.1 Promoting one participant, demoting another 

From the point of view of the textual organisation of what the speaker wants to say, it 
follows that any of three possibilities may condition the choice between active and 

1 An element which is not Agent is desired as Theme/Subject/Topic. 

2 The Agent is New information, so will be placed last. 

3 The Agent is not New and is silenced. Some other element is New and is placed 

It is not simply a change of position that is involved in the re-structuring of the passive 
clause. It is also a question of topic promotion and demotion. In the active clause, 
the Agent-Subject has the discourse role of Topic. That is, it is the most important 
participant of the discourse at the point when the clause is produced. In the passive 
clause, the Agent ceases to be Subject/ Topic. Another participant (usually the Affected) 
takes on the roles of both Subject and Topic. The Recipient (see 6.2.1) can also become 
Subject in a passive clause, as in The boy was given a mountain bike for his birthday. 

The demotion of one participant and the promotion of another are two sides of the 
same coin. If we demote the Agent (or Experiencer, or Sayer), then a different partici- 
pant (Affected, Recipient) is automatically promoted to Subject. It is clear, therefore, 
that, first, the passive is not a type of fronting or thematisation; second, it does not 
produce a marked Theme, but a different unmarked Theme; and third, the type of Theme 
involved is a participant Theme, which in this book we call Topic. Circumstantial 
Themes and textual Themes are optional additions to the core clause and play no part 
in restructuring the clause as passive. 

We now turn to the discourse motivations that involve the choice of passive. 
Basically, these are: to cut out unnecessary Given information; to manoeuvre important 
information into end position; to establish smooth connections between clauses, making 
for good information flow. These motivations work together in connected discourse. 
Choices of passive against active are not open, but are conditioned in each individual 
case by the immediate contextual environment. 


30.3.2 Choosing to be informative 

Using the passive gives us the choice of not stating who carried out the action. This is 
an important factor, because in the active clause this information can't be omitted. What 
conditions our choice, then, between a passive without an agent and one in which we 
keep the Agent in a fry-phrase at the end? The answer is: informativeness. If the Agent 
is new important information, keep it. If not, omit it. Look at this extract from Stephen 
Hawking writing about black holes, in which there is an example of each type: 

Although the concept of what we call a black hole goes back more than two hundred 
years, the name black hole was introduced only in 1 967 by the American physicist 
John Wheeler. It was a stroke of genius: the name ensured that black holes entered 
the mythology of science fiction. It also stimulated scientific research by providing a 
definite name for something that previously had not had a satisfactory title. The 
importance in science of a good name should not be underestimated. 

In this passage, Hawking gives credit to the originator of the term black hole, with the 
full name of the physicist encoded as an Agent fry-phrase. The second passive has no 
Agent because it is generic and implied (by anyone working in science). 

An additional motivation for the use of a passive with an Agent fry-phrase occurs 
when the Agent is long. By putting it at the end we follow the principle of end-weight 
('shortest first, longest last') as in the following examples, in which the Agent is 
'weightier' than the passive Subject: 

The front seats were filled fry members of the families of the victims. 

The goal was scored by Raul, the player with most goals to his credit this season. 

It is clear that end-focus, end-weight and informativeness are closely linked. New 
participants introduced onto the scene of discourse need to be described and defined 
in more detail than known ones. They are, consequently 'heavy' and are better placed 
at the end, whereas the subject in a passive clause tends to be 'light' (the front seats, the 
goal), pronouns being the lightest. 

Instead of an Agent, an event or a force of nature may occur in final position, as in 
the examples below, while Scotland's railway network and the house will be considered 
important enough to become subject: 

Scotland's railway network has been paralysed by the one-day strike. 

The house was struck by lightning. 

30.3.3 Passives without an Agent 

We have seen that uninformative Agents are silenced in discourse. More exactly, this 
may happen because the Agent is implied by the nature of the verb, but is unknown 1; 
anaphorically predictable 2; predictable by general knowledge 3; universal or general 
4; irrelevant at this point in the discourse 5; deliberately silenced in order to avoid giving 


or taking blame or responsibility 6 or to maintain privacy 7; finally, recoverable as the 
author of the text. Authorial T is preferably not mentioned in formal writing 8: 

1 My car has been stolen. 

2 When he won his gold medal he gave a huge party. Everyone was invited, [by 

3 The heart transplant was carried out successfully, [by one or more surgeons] 

4 It is hoped that war can be avoided. [Everyone has this hope] 

5 Ten thousand soldiers will be needed to operate the emergency service. 

6 The documents have been shredded and the fax hasn't been sent. 

7 It was given to me as a present, [speaker doesn't want to reveal the Agent] 

8 This point will be dealt with in a later chapter. 

When the Agent &y-phrase is omitted in a passive clause, some other element necessarily 
receives end-focus. This may be a verb 9, an Adjunct 10, or a Complement 11. For a 
verb to be focused, it must contain the main New information and the Agent must be 

9 Is this seat taken? 

1 Nothing has been heard of him for months. 

1 1 The letters had been sent unstamped. 

30.3.4 Making smooth transitions 

Look at the following examples. Version A is based on a real occurrence: 

A. Ann: Where did you get that wallet? 

Jo: It was given to me by my GIRL-friend. 
Given New 

In this exchange that wallet is introduced at the end of the first clause and is picked up 
as subject pronoun in the second. Here we have again the simple linear Theme-Rheme 
pattern, but in this case it is the choice of the passive that enables the speaker to maintain 
topic continuity, as well as unmarked end-focus. Now look at version B: 

B. Ann: Where did you get that wallet? 

Jo: My GIRL-friend gave it to me. 

New Given 

In this version, instead of initiating a topic chain headed by that wallet, a new participant 
(my GIRL-friend) is introduced, as subject, necessarily with heavy stress (marked focus). 
This compensates for the lack of topic continuity, since in English stress patterns 
override the usual Given-New pattern, producing instead a New-Given pattern. 

It is not necessarily the passive which serves to maintain topic continuity, however. 
Compare the versions b. and c. in each of the following sets of clauses. In each case c. 
rather than b. preserves the continuity better with a., whether by means of the passive 


(1 and 2) or the active (3). Moreover, 2b violates the 'animacy' and 'empathy' 
hierarchies, which give priority to human referents. All are grammatically acceptable, 

la. The Prime Minister stepped off the plane. 

lb. Journalists immediately surrounded her. 

lc. She was immediately surrounded by journalists. 

2a. The Prime Minister stepped off the plane. 

2b. The wind immediately buffeted her. 

2c. She was immediately buffeted by the wind. 

3a. The Prime Minister stepped off the plane. 

3b. All the journalists were immediately greeted by her. 

3c. She immediately greeted all the journalists. 

30.3.5 The get-passive 

The get-passive is used much more in speech than in writing and has an informal flavour, 
the reverse of the fce-passive. Here are some examples from conversation: 

Poor fellow, he got knocked down in a road accident. 
She got bitten by a new bug of some sort in France. 
I got attacked by a fan at a football match. 
He got promoted, the lucky devil! 

The gef-passive grammaticalises affective meaning, and so potentially reflects speakers' 
involvement, whereas the 6e-passive is more objective. The use of the get-passive is 
therefore an option. Speakers' interest centres on the get-passive subject and what 
happens to it, while with the 6e-passive interest centres on the event. Involvement of 
the subject referent is also implied by the get-passive, in that the subject is partly 
responsible for the significant result, whether this is beneficial or adverse. The fce-passive, 
by contrast, is neutral. Compare: 

a. She got (herself) promoted, b. She was promoted. 
a. I got stung by a wasp. b. I was stung by a wasp. 

The action undergone by the subject of the gef-passive is more often adverse than 
beneficial. In fact, all the adverse and violent things that can happen to a person or thing 
are expressible by the get-passive: get arrested, abused, fined, fired, beaten up, burgled, 
kidnapped, killed, mugged, raped, sacked, shot, vandalised and many more. The subject 
referent is either unlucky or has made an error of judgement (being at the wrong place 
at the wrong time) when bad events are described. On happier occasions, such as getting 
invited or promoted, there is often an implication that the subject referent has contrived 
to be promoted, invited and so on, or was lucky, being at the right place at the right 
time. Here is another extract from Hawking's Black Holes and Baby Universes, with an 
example of each type of passive. He is discussing the idea that: 


if one could pass through a black hole, one might re-emerge anywhere in the 
universe. Quite how to choose your destination is not clear: you might set out for a 
holiday in Virgo and end up in the Crab Nebula. 

I'm sorry to disappoint prospective galactic tourists, but this scenario doesn't work: 
if you jump into a black hole, you will get torn apart and crushed out of existence. 
However, there is a sense in which the particles that make up your body will carry 
on into another universe. I don't know if it would be much consolation to someone 
being made into spaghetti in a black hole to know that his particles might survive. 


There are several reasons for thinking that existential there has acquired a new role: 

We saw in 19.3 the structure of the existential clause (unstressed there + a form of 

be + a NG), as in There was a fight. The semantic role of Existent is associated with 

the NG, which occupies the position after the verb and is, experientially, the notional 


Unstressed there, however, fulfils most of the syntactic requirements for subject, as 

seen in 5.1.1, including its use in the tag: There's a cafe just round the corner, isn't 


Plural concord is not always maintained in spoken English, as for example: There's 

some chocolate chip cookies out there if you want some. 

Existential there can occur with the stressed adverb of place there in the same clause, 

as in There's plenty more over there. 

These facts support the view that existential there (and especially there's) has lost its 
original locative meaning and is on the way to becoming a kind of introductory particle. 
An alternative view is that its locative and deictic meaning is not entirely lost: rather, 
there points to the upcoming noun. 

Unstressed there is a presentative device in discourse. There points to the New 
information conveyed by the noun group placed at the end of the clause, where it carries 
end-weight and end-focus. In the basic types, the reverse order is not allowed, as we 
can see in the examples below. In these, a verb of very low communicative dyna- 
mism, be, placed in final position and preceded by an indefinite subject, violates the 
Given-New progression. The result is an ungrammatical clause in most cases. The 
corresponding existential clauses in 1-4 here are therefore basic existentials: they 
have no corresponding plain clause. 

1 *Hundreds of millions of stars are. There are hundreds of millions of stars. 

2 *Plenty of time is. There is plenty of time. 

3 *A storm was last night. There was a storm last night. 


4 *Seven of us are in the family. There are seven of us in the family. 

5 ?A man is at the door. There's a man at the door. 

30.4.1 Derived existentials 

These are existentials that have a corresponding plain clause, based on a 'weightier' 
verb than be. In the following examples, the verb of the plain clause (bark, hijack) appears 
in the post-modifier position of the existential NG: 

Existential clause Plain clause 

There's a dog barking outside. A dog is barking outside. 

There was another plane hijacked Another plane was hijacked yesterday, 

Semantically, the location and/or the quantification of the NG referent are important 
(see 19.3) because such features may well be the most informative part of the utterance. 
When we say, for instance, there's no milk, it is not the non-existence of milk that we are 
predicating, but rather the fact that there is no quantity of milk available at the moment 
of speaking. The spatial location is implicit. 'Existence', then, has to be understood in a 
very broad sense. 

30.4.2 Short existentials 

Short existentials, many containing a negative word specifying no quantity or number 
such as no, none, nobody/ no-one and nothing, are common in everyday English, as in 
the following examples: 

1 There's no problem. 

2 There's no point staying on then, is there? 

3 There's nothing wrong, nothing at all. 

4 There's nothing on television. 

5 There's no-one around today. 

6 There's none left. 

One of the functions of negation is to deny something previously said or implied, 
and this may be the motivation for some utterances in context (3 and 6, for instance). 
But speech acts such as reassurance (1 and 3) may be the motive for the denial. Positive 
declarative existentials may provide factual information (8) or, when they refer to the 
future, may be interpreted as predictions (7) or assurances (9): 

7 I think this is a long-term battle. There will be battles. (George W. Bush, remarks 
to the employees of the Pentagon, 17 September 2001) 

8 There have been heavy snowfalls in the north. 

9 There is bound to be another opportunity. 


30.4.3 Extended existentials 

These occur as the result of expansions of the noun group (see 19.3). Common expan- 
sions include -ing clauses, which present an entity in action 1 or in a state 2. Certain 
postposed adjectives can express a temporary state 3, 4. Passives and comparatives 
are also common, especially with the constructions there's nothing better/ worse than . . . 
in 5 and 6 respectively: 

1 There are hundreds of people clamouring for food. 

2 There is a box containing dynamite in the corner. 

3 There was plenty of food available. 

4 There are not many shops open at this hour. 

5 There were several civilians killed in a terrorist attack yesterday. 

6 There's nothing worse than being stuck in a traffic jam when you're late for an 
appointment, (comparative clause) 

The function of these expansions is to establish the relevance and coherence of the new 
referent at the point when it is introduced into the discourse. 

In formal English and in fiction, verbs of appearing and emerging lend themselves 
naturally to the presentation of New information (see 19.3) as in Fossil records suggest 
that there emerged a fern resistant to this disease. However, existence or appearance should 
not always be taken in a literal sense, but rather in relation to the discourse: it is 
appearance on the scene of discourse, or cognitive awareness, that counts. Because of 
this, even a verb like disappear may, in an appropriate context, function as a presentative, 
as in the first sentence of the novel by H. P. Lovecraft, The Strange Case of Charles Dexter 

From an asylum for the insane near Providence, Rhode Island, there recently 
disappeared an exceedingly singular person. 

From this it becomes clear that the notions 'bringing something into cognitive 
awareness' or 'onto the scene of discourse' are the key to the discourse function of there- 
structures. In this sense we can also apply the traditional term 'existential': once 
introduced, the new referent is 'present' in the discourse, and can be taken up and 
developed as a topic. 

30.4.4 There-structures as states of affairs 

A rtere-structure is commonly used in English to express events, happenings and states 
of affairs in a schematic way, without the intervention of participants. Frequently, the 
noun is a nominalisation of a verbal process (see 2 1.2): 

1 There was a fight. 

2 There was an abrupt knock at the door. 


3 There has been unprecedented industrial expansion. 

4 There was a sudden feeling of panic. 

5 There is still bribery, there is still corruption. No doubt there always will be. 

Tftere-constructions with nominalisations have the effect of silencing the Agent of the 
action. We don't know who knocked at the door, who panicked, who bribes whom, who 
fought whom. The occurrence is the only important part of the message. 

While the NG is typically indefinite, even definite NGs - which represent referents 
that are already accessible - can be introduced by a rtere-construction. This typically 
occurs when listing names of people or things 1, or when moving on to a new related 
topic 2: 

1 Who's coming to the barbecue? Well, there's Silvia and Pete, and Megan . . . 

2 (Describing a nation and its peoples) And then there are the poor. 

This is how a woman described her new portable sauna bath, introducing each part by 
means of a ^ere-construction: 

There's an oval mat you put down on the floor, 1 then there's the box which holds the 
heating element? with a wooden seat on it - I put a towel on top, otherwise it gets 
too hot - then there are the sides which are soft and which you zip up. 3 It all packs away 
neatly afterwards. 

'indefinite NG; definite NG; definite NG 


Certain types of long subject clauses are usually avoided in English because they 
violate the end-weight principle, and sound awkward (see p. 47). Finite that-clauses, 
w/t-nominal clauses and to-infinitive clauses can all be shifted to the end of the 
sentence and replaced by 'anticipatory if in subject position. The resulting structure is 
called extraposition. 

Clause as Subject Extraposed clause 

That the banks are closed on It's a nuisance that the banks are closed on 

Saturday is a nuisance. Saturday. 

What they are proposing to do is It's horrifying what they are proposing 

horrifying. to do. 

To interfere would be unwise. It would be unwise to interfere. 

Extraposed clauses are much preferred in English to the non-extraposed, as they sound 
much less awkward. The reason for this is that they satisfy the principles of end-weight 
and end-focus, thus 'packaging' the information in a way that is easier to process. For 
extraposed direct object clauses see 6.1. 2d. 


Extraposition is often used to express an opinion or to argue one's case. An evaluative 
word, such as a nuisance, horrifying, unwise comes in the middle, carrying a certain amount 
of stress. The main focus falls at the end of the sentence, reversing the distribution of 
information in the non-extraposed clause. 

Normal -ing clauses as subject are not perceived to be awkward, and there is less 
motivation to extrapose them. When they are extraposed, they are usually short and do 
not necessarily carry the main focus. For this reason they give the impression of being 
additions to the main clause, rather than extraposed subjects: 

Having you with us has been Its been a PLEASURE, having you 

a PLEASURE. with us. 

Seeing all the family again was NICE. It was NICE seeing all the family again. 

Unlike some languages, English does not normally allow extraposed NGs: *It was 
amazing his insolence is not possible - though, as a right dislocation (see 28.11) with 
appropriate intonation, it is possible to have It was amazing, his insolence, where a pause 
or a comma signals the dislocated NG. A few extraposed NGs do occur, however, and 
these contain expressions of quantity or extent, as follows: 

It's unbelievable the lengths some people are prepared to go to. 
It surprises me the amount of work he can get through. 

Obligatory extraposition after seem, appear, happen, look as if- after the expressions 
it's high time, it's a pity, it's no use, and the passive of say, hope and intend - is illustrated 
in 5.1.2. 

Certain constructions do not admit extraposition. One of these is the wh-cleft with a 
clause as subject, as in What we should do next is the main problem. (* It is the main problem 
what we should do next.) Another case is multiple embedding, as in That he failed his driving 
test the seventh time demonstrates that he lacks confidence. Here the first f/2af-clause cannot 
be extraposed over the second (*It demonstrates that he lacks confidence that he failed his 
driving test for the seventh time). 

30.5.1 Raised elements as new Themes 

A person or thing mentioned in the extraposed clause, as direct object or even as part 
of the adjunct, can sometimes be brought forward ('raised') to stand as Theme. The 
result is a new subject Theme which is a person or thing (see also 37.4): 

To cook rice is easy - It is easy to cook rice - Rice is easy to cook. 

To live with 5*7/ is difficult - It is difficult to live with Bill- Billis difficult to live with. 

To teach her is a pleasure - It is a pleasure to teach her - She is a pleasure to teach. 

Only certain adjectives and nouns permit the final raising stage. They express an 
evaluative attitude to the situation, most commonly regarding the ease or difficulty 
involved. Interestingly, the new Subject/Theme appears to be made responsible for the 



Units can be made discontinuous when we want to avoid the awkwardness of having 
long, heavy units to the left of the main verb, especially when this is 'light'. Postmodifiers 
in NGs 1, appositive reflexive pronouns 2 and clauses of comparison 3 can all occur: 

1 [? The time when no-one will write by hand any more will come] 

The time will come when no-one will write by hand any more. 

2 [You yourself did it] 

You did it yourself. 

3 [? 'More people than used to twenty years ago are buying a second car] 

More people are buying a second car than used to twenty years ago. 

30.6.1 Postponement with ditransitive verbs 

We saw in 10.2 that certain ditransitive verbs - such as give, deny, grant, lend, owe, show 
among others - allow two alternative structures: 

We've given the children bicycles. (SPOiOd) 
We've given bicycles to the children. (SPOdOb) 

This alternative allows us to place end-focus either on the Recipient (the children) or on 
the other participant, without using the passive. This way of adjusting the clause, to get 
the end-focus where we want it, is especially useful when one of the participants is Given 
information, often realised by a pronoun; this will normally be placed in medial position: 

We've given them bicycles. 
We've given them to the children. 

The oblique object (to the children) must be distinguished from a Goal Complement, 
which has no alternative position. Compare: 

I've sent the telegram to the club's treasurer, (oblique object) 

I've sent the club's treasurer the telegram. 
I've sent the telegram to his home. (Loc/Goal Complement) 

*I've sent his home the telegram. 

If we wish to combine destination and Recipient in the same clause, we replace the 
preposition to by at: 

I've sent the telegram to the club's treasurer at his home. 

Two-complement verbs which do not admit postponement of a Recipient are explained 
in 10.3. 



On Theme and Rheme, Halliday (1994); on information structure, Chafe (1994), Fries 
(1981), Downing (1991), Halliday (1994), Thompson (1996), Jimenez Julia (2000); on 
thematic progression, Danes (1974); on functional sentence perspective, Danes (1974), 
Firbas (1992); on topicality and coherence, Downing (2002), Downing (2004), Givon 
(2001); Goutsos (1996); on dislocations and existentials, Givon (1993), Biber et al. (1999), 
Huddleston and Pullum (2002); on Absolute Theme, Matthiessen (1995); for an overall 
view of relevant theories, Gomez-Gonzalez (2000); on discourse markers, Schiffrin 
(1987), Jucker and Ziv (1998); on negation in discourse, Hidalgo-Downing (2000). On 
clefting, Collins (1991). On detachments and left/right dislocations, Lambrecht (1994), 
Downing (1997); on postponement with ditransitive verbs, Collins (1995). On cohesion, 
Halliday and Hasan (1976). On the gef-passive, Downing (1996). 


Thematic and information structures of the clause 

Module 28 

1 tUnderline the Theme in each of the following examples and say whether it is marked or 
unmarked. If marked, say which clause constituent has been thematised (fronted) in each 

(1) Paul telephoned an antique dealer in Brussels. 

(2) Abruptly they were cut off. 

(3) Is he a friend of yours? 

(4) Celebrating her victory today is downhill ski champion Marina Kiehl of Germany. 

(5) Freezing cold it was. 

(6) Meet me at eight at the Cafe de Paris. 

(7) In the American soft-drinks industry, plastic bottles are extensively used. 

(8) For months, all had been quiet in the Holy Wars. 

(9) Crazy I call it. 

(10) Never again will I fly with that airline. 

2 tThematise one constituent of the second clause so that it links up with the first clause: 

(1) He asked me for paper, glue, sticky tape and clips. I bought him all of these. 

(2) I swim thirty lengths a day for fun. You call it fun! 

(3) He told us the history of the place. We already knew most of it. 

(4) I can't remember what post Biggins occupies in the Government. He is Government 

(5) I thought I would never get there but I did get there. 


3 tThe following extract is the beginning of a story by James Joyce. 

Mrs Mooney was a butcher's daughter. She was a woman who was quite able to 
keep things to herself, a determined woman. She had married her father's foreman, 
and opened a butcher's shop near Spring Gardens. But as soon as his father-in-law 
was dead Mr Mooney began to go to the devil. He drank, plundered the till, ran 
headlong into debt. It was no use making him take the pledge: he was sure to break 
out again a few days after. By fighting his wife in the presence of customers and by 
buying bad meat he ruined his business. One night he went for his wife with the 
cleaver, and she had to sleep in a neighbour's house. 
After that, they lived apart. 

(1) First, identify the topic entities. Next, see how each is introduced. That is, which 
of the syntactic devices listed in 28.7 as topic introducers is used by the author to 
introduce Mrs Mooney and then her husband? Is Mr Mooney identified at his first 
mention? By what means are these topics maintained? 

(2) Check in which cases Topic coincides with (a) Subject; (b) Theme. 
(4) What does 'that' refer to in the last line? 

4 Each of the clauses below contains an experiential element as Theme. Add as many non- 
experiential Themes as you can from the types given in 28.12 (continuatives, adjuncts of 
various types, vocatives and appellatives), to make up suitable multiple Themes e.g: 

Those flowers are ready to be thrown away. 

But honestly, Mary, judging by the look of them, those flowers are ready to be 

thrown away. 

(1) Violence in schools is an issue requiring urgent attention. 

(2) Bad manners among motorists mean danger to others. 

(3) What would you like for your birthday? 

Module 29 

1 In the extract from a conversation below, B tells how Susie looks for the money left by the 
tooth fairy under her pillow in exchange for her tooth, but her parents have forgotten to 
leave the money. Practise reading this text aloud, then tape your reading and compare it 
with that of a native speaker. 

The prosodic features indicated are as follows: 
// tone unit boundary 

first prominent syllable of the tone unit ('onset') 
T the next syllable is stressed and also steps up in pitch 

pauses, from brief to long 
Capitals are used to indicate the nucleus. 


B I ANYway // - I Susie SAID // - that . there were I no such things as FAIRies // ELVES 
// this that and the T Other // - WELL // . The | night she T PUT // her tooth under the 
PIL ow // we for got to put the T MOney there // and take it a T WAY // we for got 
all aBOUT it // (A laughs) so she got | UP in the MORning // - my | TOOTH'S all gone 
// and there's no Money // Dave said well / there you T ARE you SEE // YOU said 
you didn't be LIEVE in FAIRies // so how can you ex'pect the T fairies to come and 
T SEE you if // - - | OH // but I | DO believe in FAIRies // (D laughs) you | KNOW // | | 
really DO // (A laughs) so | Dave said well - T try Again toNIGHT // - - 

(adapted from D. Crystal and D. Davy, 
Advanced Conversational English) 

2 |Read the following exchange aloud, trying to identify the intonation nucleus of each tone 

What did she say? 

I don't know. I didn't hear her. 

Didn't you hear anything? 

No, I've told you, I was in the other room. 

I don't think you care about Leslie. 

I do care. 

Why don't you talk to her then? 

I'm always talking to her. 

(1) Write in capitals the syllable which contains the nucleus of each tone unit. 

(2) Which of the units have unmarked focus and which have marked focus? Justify your 
identification of each in terms of Given and New information, including emphasis 
and contrastive polarity. 

3 Read aloud each clause of the advertisement on p. 242 (section 29.3) and discuss 
whether, as an utterance, each element in focus expresses an implied contrast, or is simply 

4 |The following extract is from the play by Giles Cooper, Everything in the Garden. In pairs, 
reproduce it from memory and then act it out, marking the intonation nuclei clearly. Then, 
look at the discussion question below. 








Do you want an egg? 

Are you having one? 

Do you want one? 

If you're having one, I will, otherwise no. 

You are a lazy devil! 

No. It's just that I don't want an egg enough to start everything going towards 

cooking it, but if you were going to do one for yourself, well, I'd want it enough 

for that. 

I don't think I'll have one. 

I'll do you one if you like. 


Jenny: You do want one? 

Bernard: No, I don't. I'll just do you one. You ought to eat. 

What do you consider to be the principal communicative purposes of the marked focuses 
in this text? 

5 tComplete each of the sentences below using elliptical or substitution forms. Some have 
more than one possible form. 

(1 ) If YOU can't do it, I very much doubt whether I . . . 

(2) I told you I'd given it back and I . . . 

(3) They arranged to come and put in a new water-heater, but they . . . yet 

(4) Peter asked the girls if they would like to go for a sail and they said Yes, they . . . 

(5) Ed has the ambition to do some script-writing, but he really doesn't know . . . 

(6) Sue's children usually want to spend a long time on the swings, but today 
they . . . 

(7) He told me to turn down the next side-street and I . . . 

(8) And it was a one-way street? - Yes, I'm afraid . . . 

6 The following exchange, from an interview, contains an ellipted reply: 

(a) A. You don't think genetically modified crops is the way to go? 
B. Definitely not. 

The reply in the next exchange, also from an interview, contains no ellipsis at all: 

(b) A. Did you take a bribe? 

B. I did not take a bribe, I would never take a bribe and it is absolutely out of the 
question that there was any bribe. 

(c ) Both ellipsis and substitution are economical. Can you suggest any conditions in 
which it might be better not to ellipt? And others in which ellipsis might be a 
discourse necessity? 

(d) Comment on the use of ellipsis and substitution in ads, both written and spoken (for 
instance, on television and radio), as in Ashamed of your mobile? 

Module 30 

1 tTurn to the text The 'lost' Van Gogh on p. 248. Identify the thematic progression type 
used to link each clause to the next in the paragraph. 

2 tChange the information structure of each of the following clauses into one if-cleft and, 
when possible, two wh-cleft structures: 

(1 ) Experts are working on the recycling of plastic. 

(2) Smoking can cause fatal diseases. 


(3) Last thing at night I unwind by reading and listening to the radio. 

(4) The computer industry is fighting against viruses. 

(5) Shortly after I got home I realised I had lost my purse. 

3 |The following extract is the opening paragraph of a short story, 'Lord Mountdrago' by 
Somerset Maugham, in The World Over: The Collected Stories, vol. 2: 

Dr. Audlin was a psycho-analyst. 1 He had adopted the profession by accident and 
practised it with misgiving. 2 When the war broke out he had not been long qualified 
and was getting experience at various hospitals; 3 he offered his services to the 
authorities and after a time was sent out to France. 4 It was then he discovered his 
singular gift. 5 

(1) Identify the single cleft sentence in the paragraph and say which element is focused. 

(2) What is the discourse function of this type of cleft? 

4 tDecide whether option (b) or option (c) provides better topic continuity with (a). With 
which option could (a) be coordinated using and or but and a zero anaphor? 





a) They stepped out of the coach. 

b) The owner of the hotel greeted them. 

c) They were greeted by the owner of the hotel. 

a) Edith chose a piece of chocolate cake. 

b) She took it to her table together with an iced drink. 

c) It was taken to her table together with an iced drink. 

a) James had planned to take the plane to Vancouver. 

b) An air-traffic controllers' strike delayed it. 

c) It was delayed by an air-traffic controllers' strike. 

a) She stood on the solitary beach. 

b) She let the wind ruffle her hair. 

c) The wind was allowed to ruffle her hair. 

5 t(a)For each of the sentences below, write the corresponding passive form, if passivisation 
is possible. 

(1) They founded the first kindergarten in the United States in 1856 in Watertown, 

(2) That legacy has traditionally benefited Milwaukee residents. 


(3) People have taken four-year-old kindergarten as much for granted as summer 
breezes off Lake Michigan. 

(4) Now there is a severe budget crunch. Milwaukee Public School officials have 
proposed the unthinkable: eliminating four-year-old kindergarten. 

(5) 'Are we to raise property taxes or are we to keep four-year-old kindergarten? These 
are the choices we may have to make,' said a school board member. 

(6) Gov. O'Keefe's new budget has produced the dilemma. 

(7) The budget reduces the proportion of the state's share of education costs and 
imposes cost controls on local district spending. 

(b) You now have a number of active-passive alternatives. Note that (2) does not passivise, 
but that the verb 'benefit' allows different postponed alternatives. 

Now make the sentences into a text, choosing the active or passive alternative in each 
case, according to which you find more cohesive. Add conjunctions and conjunctive 
expressions wherever these help to clarify the logical connections. 

6 Read the extract below from Raymond Chandler's The Long Goodbye, noting the use of 
presentative 'there': 

There are blondes and blondes and it is almost a joke nowadays. All blondes have 
their points, except perhaps the metallic ones who are as blonde as a Zulu under 
the bleach and as to disposition as soft as a sidewalk. There is the small cute blonde 
who cheeps and twitters, and the big statuesque blonde who straight-arms you with 
an ice-blue glare. There is the blonde who gives you the up-from-under look and 
smells lovely and shimmers and hangs on your arm and is always very, very tired 
when you take her home. She makes that helpless gesture and has that god-damned 
headache and you would like to slug her except that you are glad you found out 
about the headache before you invested too much time and money and hope in her. 
Because the headache will always be there, a weapon that never wears out and is 
as deadly as the bravo's rapier or Lucrezia's poison vial. There is the soft and willing 
and alcoholic blonde who doesn't care what she wears as long as it's mink or where 
she goes as long as it is the Starlight Roof and there is plenty of dry champagne. 
There is the small perky blonde who is a little pale and wants to pay her own way 
and is full of sunshine and common sense and knows judo from the ground up and 
can toss a truck driver over her shoulder without missing more than one sentence 


out of the editorial in the 'Saturday Review'. There is the pale, pale blonde with 
anaemia of some non-fatal but incurable type. She is very languid and very shadowy 
and she speaks softly out of nowhere and you can't lay a finger on her because in 
the first place you don't want to and in the second place she is reading 'The Waste 
Land' or Dante in the original, or Kafka or Kierkegaard or studying Provencal. She 
adores music and when the New York Philharmonic is playing she can tell you which 
one of the six bass viols came in a quarter of a beat too late. I hear Toscanini can 
also. That makes two of them. And lastly there is the gorgeous show piece who will 
outlast three kingpin racketeers and then marry a couple of millionaires at a million 
a head and end up with a pale rose villa at Cap d'Antibes, an Alfa Romeo town car 
complete with pilot and co-pilot, and a stable of shop-worn aristocrats, all of whom 
she will treat with the affectionate absentmindedness of an elderly duke saying 
goodnight to his butler. The dream across the way was none of these, not even of 
that kind of world. She was unclassifiable. 

From the use of the 'there' construction in this text, can you argue for the view that the 
existential structure expresses existence? Or is it a presentative or a cognitive device? 



Clause combinations 

Module 31: Clause combining 272 

31.1 The complex sentence 272 

31 .2 The sentence as an orthographic and rhetorical unit 274 

31.2.1 Clausal and non-clausal material 274 

31.3 Degrees of dependency between clauses 275 

Module 32: Types of relationship between clauses 277 

32.1 Syntactic relationships and semantic relationships 277 

32.2 Syntactic relationships of equivalence: coordination and apposition 278 

32.3 Syntactic relationships of non-equivalence: dependency and subordination 279 

32.4 The semantics of clause combining: types of expansion 279 

Module 33: Elaborating the message 281 

33.1 Apposition and elaboration in finite clauses 281 
33.1.1 Clarifying connectives: restating, exemplifying and upgrading 282 

33.2 Sentence relative clauses 283 

33.3 Non-finite supplementive clauses: specifying and commenting 284 

Module 34: Extending the message 285 

34.1 The semantics of coordination 285 

34.1.1 Addition 285 

34.1.2 Variation 286 

34.1.3 Alternation 286 

34.1.4 Explanation 286 

34.2 Contrastive dependency: while, whereas, but for the fact that 287 

34.3 Besides, instead of, without + non-finites 288 

34.4 Implicit meanings of -ing supplementives 288 

Module 35: Enhancing the message 290 

35.1 Coordination or apposition + circumstance 290 

35.1.1 Inferred meanings of 'and' 291 

35.1 .2 Similar meanings expressed by coordinators and subordinators 292 

35.2 Finite dependent clauses of time, contingency and manner 292 
35.2.1 Finite dependent clauses and subordinators 292 

35.3 Pragmatic conjunction 294 

35.4 Non-finite clauses expressing circumstantial meanings 296 

35.4.1 Explicit markers of circumstantial meanings 296 

35.4.2 Verb forms as circumstantial markers 297 

35.5 Discourse connectivity and cohesion: Initial vs final circumstantial clauses 298 

Module 36: Reporting speech and thought 299 

36.1 Direct and indirect reporting 299 

36.2 Direct reporting of speech and thought 300 

36.3 Backshift in indirect speech and thought reporting 303 

36.4 Reported offers, suggestions and commands 305 

36.5 Clause type in the reported clause 306 

36.6 Free direct speech and free indirect speech 307 

36.7 Free indirect thought 308 

Further reading 309 

Exercises 309 



1 The term 'sentence' is widely used to refer to quite different types of unit. 
Grammatically, it is the highest unit and consists of one independent clause, or 
two or more related clauses. Orthographically and rhetorically, it is that unit 
which starts with a capital letter and ends with a full stop, question mark or 
exclamation mark. 

2 'Complex sentence' is the term we shall use to refer to a unit consisting minimally 
of two clauses of equal status, or two clauses of unequal status. Coordinated 
clauses and those in an oppositional relationship have equal status. Dependent 
clauses have an unequal status with respect to a main clause. Clauses 
embedded as Adjuncts are constituents of the superordinate clause in which 
they are embedded. 

3 In everyday uses of English, coordination and dependency typically interrelate 
in various patterns that contribute to produce flexible and dynamic discourse. 

4 Clause combinations reflect the cognitive organisation of our experience into 
what is presented as more salient and foregrounded, and what is less salient 
and backgrounded. 


The highest grammatical unit is traditionally called the sentence. Three possible types 
of sentence are usually distinguished: 

The simple sentence consists basically of one independent clause, as in Sam bought 
the tickets. The independent clause is the unit we consider primary, in that it 
comprises minimal grammatical completeness and unity. 

The compound sentence consists basically of two independent clauses, linked in a 
relationship of coordination, as in Sam bought the tickets and Sue parked the car. 


The complex sentence consists basically of one independent clause and one 
dependent clause, linked in a relationship of dependency, as in Sam bought the tickets, 
while Sue parked the car. 

In connected discourse, however, the combinations may be more complex and variable 
than this simple outline suggests. Coordination and subordination of clauses do not 
necessarily occur unrelatedly, each in combination with a main clause, as illustrated in 
the compound and complex sentence above. More often they interrelate. Numerous 
combinations are possible. Here are two examples. In 1, a combination of clauses occurs 
in a report about the dangers of walking on hills: 

1 However, hillwalking is largely safe(l) but there are risks(2) and we have to 
educate people about these risks(3) if we are going to improve safety(4). 

[bnc chk 1798] 

After the connective adjunct however, two coordinated clauses (1 and 2) are followed 
by a unit consisting of a third coordinated clause (3) in which a subordinate conditional 
clause is embedded (4) as adjunct. This clause 'if we are going to improve safety' could 
alternatively be placed after 'and' but not at the beginning of the whole complex 
sentence. In these examples the + sign indicates coordination, the X sign subordination. 
Round brackets enclose independent clauses, square brackets enclose subordinate 

(hillwalking is largely safe) + (but there are risks) + (and we have to educate people 
about these risks) X [//we are going to improve safety] 

Example 2 comes from a news item and illustrates a different pattern: one independent 
clause with two subordinate clauses successively embedded as adjuncts: 

2 A boy saved the lives of his brother and two sisters yesterday( 1 ) when fire broke 
out(2) while they were at home alone(3). [bnc ahx 185] 

The three clauses are organised in a hierarchical relationship. An independent clause 
(1) encodes the main content - a boy saved the lives of his brother and two sisters 
yesterday. Two subordinate clauses (2 and 3) encode the circumstances of time, when 
fire broke out, while they were alone in their home. The first of these circumstantial 
clauses functions as A in the independent clause, the second as A in the previous 
subordinate clause. This is a case of double, or 'layered' embedding: 

(A boy saved the lives of his brother and two sisters yesterday) 
X [when fire broke out 


x [while they were at home alone.]] 



Adopting a broader application of the term, we will say that a complex sentence can 
consist of any number of clauses of different types and in different combinations. 


The structural criteria outlined in the preceding section are not the only criteria which 
have intervened in the traditional and widely accepted concept (or concepts) of 
'sentence'. For most native speakers of English, a sentence is something that starts with 
a capital letter and ends with a full stop (AmE 'period'), a question mark or an exclama- 
tion mark. It is, then, a category associated primarily with the written language and can 
be described as an orthographical and rhetorical unit. 

31.2.1 Clausal and non-clausal material 

We have already seen (Chapter 5) how units of lower rank than an independent clause, 
such as nominal and adjectival groups, as well as incomplete clauses, appear in plays, 
stories and advertisements between a capital letter and a full stop, functioning inde- 
pendently as orthographic and rhetorical sentences. Such is the case with the italicised 
expressions in the following examples: 

The large size is unavailable. Which is a pity. 

(freestanding subordinate clause) 

[A. We've got the deal.] B. Fantastic*. 

(adjective-headed exclamation) 

You deaf or what? (verbless clause) 

A. Have you seen the satellites, B. Oh those, no, no. 

erm, you know, our satellite places? (non-clausal) [bnc kbb 2402-2405] 

The following advertisement from Newsweek uses full stops and a dash to reflect 
tone units, as described in Chapter 6. Here, units 2, 3 and 4 could be combined to form 
one sentence, just as when analysing spontaneous speech, we can attempt to make 
a distinction between clausal units and non-clausal material. As a structural unit the 
clause is easier to identify, because of its own internal structure, as described in chapters 
2 and 3. 

With Fax the possibilities are endless. 1 

It can send a document anywhere in the States within minutes. 2 

Including drawings, diagrams - even musical notes. 3 

Exactly as it's written. 4 

Fax. 5 Worth making a song and dance about. 6 

'independent clause; independent clause; 3 PP or non-finite -ing clause; "dependent 
clause of manner; 5 NG; 'verbless clause 


In this advert, only ' and 2 are structurally independent clauses. Punctuation serves to 
reinforce the presentation of each rhetorical unit as if it were independent, as would be 
done equally clearly if the text were read aloud. 

To summarise, if we take the complex sentence as the highest structural unit, we can 
say that, structurally, the sentence is composed of clauses, but that rhetorically and 
orthographically it need not be. Both in conversation and in texts that simulate the 
spoken mode, we can find orthographic units that are clausal and others that are non- 
clausal. The difference is one of degree, however, rather than absolute. In context, 
ellipted material can often be recovered, as we saw in section 29.5. With other units, 
such as fax 5 in the advertisement, it is not possible to recover any material with certainty. 
Consequently this unit cannot in this context be considered clausal. 


We adopt the view that dependency is not an absolute property, but rather a question 
of degree. It has been suggested that the degree of dependency between two clauses 
reflects the degree of integration, as perceived or imagined by the speaker or writer, 
between events. That is, the stronger the semantic or pragmatic connectivity perceived 
between two events, the stronger will be the syntactic connectivity between the clauses 
that encode the events. 

The tightest integration is that of embedding (see 3.7.3), by which one clause 
functions as the constituent of another clause. In previous chapters we saw that in 
clause structure embedding occurs at Subject 1, Object 2, Complement 3 (Cs), 4 (Co), 
5 (obligatory Locative Complement), and A (Adjunct) 6 and 7. See also 5.1.2F (p. 46). 
For embedding of units in nominal group structures, see Module 49. 

1 Why he resigned was never revealed, (clause embedded at S) 

2 She explained that the machine was out of order, (clause embedded at Od) 

3 The question is whether we can finish in time, (clause embedded at Cs) 

4 He made the club what it is today, (clause embedded at Co) 

5 Put the flowers where we can see them, (clause embedded at C loc ) 

Among the various types of Adjunct described in section 8.2, circumstantial Adjuncts 
of time, contingency and manner are those which are most similar to the central clause 
constituents. They are dependent on the main clause and subordinate to it. Unlike 
clauses functioning at Object and Complement, they are optional, they are not controlled 
by the verb and they occur in both initial and final positions. 

6 Although Ed is only seven, he plays the piano beautifully, (subordinate clause as A) 

7 Annie has been saving up to buy her mother a birthday present, (subordinate clause 
as A) 

The functionally based reason for analysing such clauses as Adjuncts is the functional 
parallelism with adjuncts realised as adverbial or prepositional phrases. Compare: 


The match was cancelled because of the rain. 
The match was cancelled because it started to rain. 

Like Subject and Object, they can usually be made the focus of a cleft: 

It was because of the rain that the match was cancelled. 

It was because it started to rain that the match was cancelled. 

Circumstantial Adjuncts often appear to be more integrated into the main clause when 
they occur finally, as in 7, than when they are initial, where they fulfil a framing function, 
as in 6. These differences are explained and illustrated in section 35.5. 

More peripheral are the -en and -ing supplementive clauses (see 8.2.2) illustrated in 
8 and 9, together with the so-called 'sentence relative' clause 10, also a supplementive. 
Verbless clauses such as 'if necessary' are likewise peripheral. All are set off from the 
main clause by a comma and have their own intonation contour. Their function is to 
provide background information when they are placed initially, and supplementary 
details when final: 

8 Built of cypress, brick and glass, the house exhibits many of Wright's significant 

contributions to architecture, (-en participal clause) 

9 He sat and looked at her, not knowing what to say. (-ing participial clause) 

[bnc hof 2512] 
10 The door may be locked, in which case go round to the back, (sentence relative) 

Finally, at the opposite end of the scale of dependency, we have coordinated and 
appositional clauses in which one clause is not subordinated to another, but has a rela- 
tionship of equivalence and interdependency based on similarity of function and on 
relevance of content. 

We now discuss the structural relations between combinations of clauses and also 
the semantic relations which unite them. The latter are essential if we are to say any- 
thing of interest about the grammatical structure of any combination of clauses, since 
a mere enumeration of main and dependent elements reveals at best only the degree 
of complexity at sentence level, but not the semantic and pragmatic relations between 
the component clauses. 

Relationships between clauses, both semantic and syntactic, are most clear and 
explicit when a subordinator or coordinator are present. Where these are absent, and 
especially if the dependent clause is non-finite, the relationship is less explicit. The 
functional motivation for less explicit meanings is that, at the point at which they occur 
in discourse, greater explicitness is not necessary, and economy of expression is 

He has a summer job with a travel agency, guiding parties of tourists. 

It's my new timetable - to help me finish my thesis. 

They advised me to emigrate - which is the last thing I'd do. 





1 The clauses which comprise a complex sentence are related in two different 
ways: syntactically and semantically. 

2 Syntactic relationships are basically of equivalence, holding between clauses 
of equal status, or of non-equivalence, holding between clauses of unequal 

3 The semantic relations are grouped under the notion of expansion, by which 
one clause expands the meaning of another in some way. 


There are two kinds of relationship between clauses that together form a sentence: 
syntactic and semantic. 

The syntactic relationship is one of interdependency. Clauses are related to 
each other basically in one of two ways: either the relationship is one of equivalence, 
both or all clauses having the same syntactic status, or the relationship is one of non- 
equivalence, the clauses having a different status, one being dependent on another. 
Coordination and apposition display relationships of equivalence, while dependency 
and subordination are based on non-equivalence. 

The semantic relations are very varied, as they represent the way the speaker 
or writer conceptualises the connection made between one clause and another, at one 
point in the discourse. Such connections do not simply link clauses within a sentence, 
however, but also clauses within a paragraph and paragraphs within discourse. These 
semantic relations can be grouped together under the heading of expansion, by which 
one clause expands another by clarifying or exemplifying (elaboration); by adding or 
contrasting some feature (extension), or by providing circumstantial information such 
as time, cause and condition (enhancement). 


Both types of relationship, the syntactic and the semantic, are present in all the clausal 
relationships described in this chapter. 


Coordination is the syntactic relationship between units of equal status and often of 
similar form. For this reason, a repeated part may be ellipted, as in 3. Semantically, the 
contents of the two clauses have to be seen as relevant to each other in some way. 

1 I don't like it and I don't want it. 

2 You can keep it or you can give it away. 

3 It's a fine piece of furniture, but (it is) too large for this room. 

The linking relationship is made explicit by the coordinating conjunctions ('co- 
ordinators' for short) and, or and but. In listing a series of elements, the explicit links 
may be omitted, although the coordinator is typically retained between the last two 
items. The coordinator can also be replaced by a comma in short conjoined clauses as 
in This one's yours, that one's mine. 

It is not only independent clauses that can be coordinated. Dependent clauses may 
be coordinated as long as they have the same function: 

It's much nicer here when the rain stops and (when) the sun comes out. (finite 
dependent circumstantial clauses as A) 

She sat there, watching television and eating chocolates, (non-finite -ing dependent 
supplementive clauses as A) 

When no explicit formal link is present, but the relationship is one of equivalence, 
we have apposition, as long as a relation of relevance can be inferred. This involves a 
kind of 'bridging assumption'. For instance, example 1 below relies on the knowledge 
that a hallmark guarantees authenticity. The term 'apposition' is extended here from its 
usual application to nominal groups in order to account for this type of relationship 
between clauses, which is close to coordination, but without an explicit link, as seen by 
comparing 2 and 3: 

1 It must be genuine; it has the hallmark, (appositive clauses) 

2 Tom is an astrophysicist and works at the CERN in Geneva 
(coordinated clauses) 

3 Tom is an astrophysicist; he works at the CERN in Geneva, 
(appositive clauses) 

Semantically, as such clauses have equal status, the information presented in one clause 
is as important as that presented in the other or others. This does not mean that such 
combinations are necessarily reversible. 


Syntactic and pragmatic factors frequently intervene to make reversibility impossible. 
Three such factors are: 

if the second clause contains a term which refers anaphorically to an antecedent in 

the first clause, as does them in 1 below; 

if the second clause contains an item which makes it cohesive with the first, as does 

as a result in example 2; 

if the order of the clauses is of pragmatic significance, as shown by 3 and 4, which 

suggest different pragmatic interpretations: 

1 I have bought some beautiful tapestries and I think you will like them. 

2 There was no moon that night; as a result, they took the wrong turning. 

3 She got married and moved to York. (She first married and then moved to York) 

4 She moved to York and got married. (Her move to York resulted in her marrying) 

See also section 28.13 for clauses as Themes. 


When units of unequal status are related, the relationship is one of dependency. One 
clause is dependent on another or on a cluster of clauses, as seen in section 31.1. The 
relationship between the clauses is therefore not symmetrical, as with coordination and 
apposition, but hierarchical. Syntactically and semantically, the dependency relationship 
is most clearly signalled by subordinating conjunctions ('subordinators') such as because, 
although, if, as. However, when no subordinator is present, as often happens with non- 
finite clauses, as in Clutching her umbrella, she hurried to a bus shelter, the non-finite 
form itself indicates dependency. We here use the terms 'dependent' and 'dependency' 
to include subordination. 


Traditional grammar has no terms for the overall semantic relationships holding 
between clauses, although (as we shall see) the syntactic relations are traditionally 
established. Following the classification proposed by M. A. K. Halliday, we shall say 
that in coordinated and appositive clauses the second clause expands the first clause 
by (a) elaborating, (b) extending or (c) enhancing it. The same semantic relations 
hold between a main and a dependent subordinate clause, no matter what position the 
subordinate clause occupies. These combinations are shown below. 



(i) coordination or apposition 

(ii) dependency 


Tom kept quiet; 

Tom kept quiet, 


he said nothing. 

which was unusual. 


Tom kept quiet 

Tom kept quiet, 


but Ed spoke out. 

whereas Ed spoke out. 


Tom was afraid 

Tom kept quiet, 


and so he kept quiet. 

because he was afraid. 

In clause combining by elaboration, one clause expands another by elaborating on 
it in greater detail - by clarifying it, in other words, as in (a). 

In clause combining by extension, one clause expands another by adding 
something new - giving an alternative or an exception, as in (b). 

In clause combining by enhancement, clauses of result, reason, and so on, expand 
the primary clause by contributing these circumstantial features, as in (c). 

In the following sections we pay particular attention to the semantic features which 
result from the combination of these two systems, and the connectives which reinforce 




1 Elaborating clauses are clauses that clarify or comment on a first clause. These 
secondary clauses can be finite or non-finite, and occur in a coordinating or a 
subordinating relationship with the first clause. Connective adjuncts 
(connectives) such as in other words, for instance, in fact, actually, can be 
used to reinforce the semantic relationship. 

2 Clauses in an oppositional relationship have no coordinator. With finite clauses 
of equal status, the second clause provides a clarification of the first by restating 
or exemplifying it. Dependency with elaboration is manifested in non-defining 
sentential relative clauses which add extra, omissible information to the first 

3 As in all clause combining, the semantic relationships are typically much less 
explicit when realised by non-finite clauses. 


Appositive clauses stand in a syntactic relation of equivalence but have no formal link. 
The 'clarifying' meaning of elaboration is important in establishing the semantic 
connection between them, as in it's no good - it doesn't work. We interpret them by 
inferring the semantic connection between them, based on our cultural knowledge. In 
the spoken language, intonation is a helpful guide, while in writing the symmetry of this 
type of clause relationship is reflected in punctuation by the use of the semi-colon, colon 
or dash: 

1 It's like going out with a child; she stops dead and refuses to go any further. 

2 He had been drinking very hard - only I knew how hard. 

3 You must make up a better excuse: no-one will believe that. 


Evidently, the content must be appropriate. The secondary clause commonly 'elab- 
orates' the meaning of the primary clause by 'exemplifying' it 1, or 'clarifying' it - as a 
whole, or in part 2. Causal relationships, such as reason 3, can also be inferred. 
Ultimately, it is the choice of the speaker or writer to present the relationships as s/he 
sees them, relying on the hearer's ability to make the connection. 

33.1.1 Clarifying connectives: restating, exemplifying and 

Instead of relying on an implicit semantic connection between the clauses in apposition, 
the type of connection can be made explicit by the use of connectives that provide 
cohesive, not structural linking. The key concept is clarification, which is spelt out by 
connectives in three ways: restating, exemplifying or upgrading. 

A. Restating 

Here, the second clause restates the content of the first from another point of view, often 
making it more specific. Connectives include in other words, or rather, that is (to say), 
specifically, namely, as follows and i.e. (used only in writing). 

This picture is not an original; in other words, it's a forgery. 

We became tourists; or rather, we became tramps. 

There is still another topic to be discussed; namely, the re-allocation of space in 

this building. 
We need someone to fix this machine, that is to say, we need a mechanic. 
Alcoholic drinks are sold only to adults, i.e. people over 18. 
Several countries have signed the pact; specifically, all the EC countries have 

done so. 

6. Exemplifying 

In this, the second clause develops the content of the first by means of an example. 
Typical connectives are for example and for instance. 

There are lots of things you might do -for example, you might learn to play a musical 

You can't count on the trains being punctual here; for instance, the 10.55 left at 11.15 


C. Upgrading 

In this case, the second clause clarifies the meaning of the first by presenting a stronger 
argument for the point made, which in the case of actually may be contrary to 
expectations. These connectives can be used to signal discrepant viewpoints in 
conversation: in fact, indeed, actually. 


I was completely ignorant of women; in fact, I knew none except my own sisters. 
I didn't mind their questions - indeed, I was glad to be able to answer them. 
We should get through this job fairly soon; actually, there is very little left to do. 


The syntax of dependency together with the clarifying meanings of elaboration provide 
the category of non-restrictive (or non-defining) sentence relative clauses. Non- 
restrictive relative clauses of whatever type are treated as supplementives (see Module 
49 for defining and supplementive relative clauses in nominal groups). 

The sentential relative clause has as its antecedent the whole first clause, or its 
complement. The relative pronoun is which. Which is what is also used, especially in 
spoken English: 

They decided not to go, which turned out to be a mistake. 

We promised you the sun would shine, which it did. (tourism ad) 

His new novel is a bestseller, which is what everyone had expected. 

The sentential relative is characterised by the following features: 

It is only loosely connected to its antecedent clause. Although its subordinate status 

is signalled by the relativiser which, it is a parenthetical supplementive that has 

considerable semantic independence. 

Semantically, the sentence relative makes an independent statement, which is an 

extension of the already complete unit. It adds additional, omissible information to 

something that is already presented as identified. 

These features have much to do with information flow, as explained below. 

Intonationally, the supplementive clause constitutes an independent intonation 

unit which is signalled by a comma or, more informally, by a dash. It contributes 

new information to what has already been established or is assumed to be known, 

for instance, that we promised you the sun would shine. 

The discourse function of non-restrictive clauses (whether sentential or nominal, 

as in Module 49) is to assert new information without making it the main point of 

the utterance. 

Sentential relative clauses are becoming versatile in English. It is now quite common 
to find them functioning as freestanding subordinate clauses after a pause. They may 
be uttered by the same speaker or added by the addressee as a collaborative response, 
usually of an evaluative nature: 

A. Perhaps she thinks it sounds better. B. Which it does really. 

[BNC KD8 44 447] 

A. He goes out playing squash, then [B No, I know] 
he's not eating his main meal until 
eleven o'clock at night. Which is stupid [kbc 14.505] 


Many such clauses can be paraphrased by a coordinated clause (e.g. and it does). 
The relativiser which in a supplementive clause marks the closeness of the comment to 
the previous discourse. Which is sometimes considered as a one-word substitute for the 
coordinated or appositive structure. 


The non-finite participal forms -ing and -en are used as supplementives to elaborate 
another clause by specifying or giving an explanatory comment on it, as in 1 and 2. The 
non-finite form may have its own explicit subject as in 3 and 4: 

1 At that moment Charles appeared in the hall, propelling himself in a wheelchair. 

2 The mountains were invisible, enveloped in a thick mist. 

3 That was the last time I saw him, his face all covered in bandages. 

4 The soldiers filled the coaches, the younger ones eating sandwiches and chocolate. 

For thematised supplementive clauses, see Chapter 6. 

Some of the elaborating types of clause combining occur in the following extract 
from an anthropologist's account of life with the Dowayos, a people of Cameroon: 

Faced with the impossibility of eating off the land, 1 I decided to keep my own 
chickens. This, also, was not a success. Some I bought, some were given to me. 2 
Dowayo chickens, on the whole, are scrawny, wretched things; eating them is rather 
like eating an Airfix model of a Tiger Moth. 3 They responded to treatment, however. 
I fed them on rice and oatmeal, which Dowayos who never feed them at all found 
a huge extravagance. 4 One day, they began to lay. I had fantasies of being able to 
eat an egg every day. As I sat in my hut, gloating over my first day's haul, 5 my 
assistant appeared in the doorway, an expression of bland self-satisfaction on his 
face. 6 'Patron/ he exclaimed, 'I just noticed the chickens were laying eggs so I killed 
them before they lost all their strength!' 

(Nigel Barley, The Innocent Anthropologist) 

'non-finite -en supplementive clause; 2 two short coordinated clauses with the 
coordinator replaced by a comma; 3 two clauses in apposition; in the second, the 
meaning of 'result' can be inferred; Elaborating clause whose antecedent is the 
whole main clause; a further nondefining relative clause introduced by who, without 
punctuation, has 'Dowayos' as antecedent; Explanatory non-finite -ing clause 
elaborating on the previous finite clause; 6 verbless supplementive clause 




1 Extension combines the syntax of coordination with the meanings of addition 
and contrast. The second clause extends the meaning of the first clause by such 
meanings as addition, variation, alternation, explanation and exception. As 
well as the coordinating conjunctions and, or and but which connect the clauses, 
cohesive connective adjuncts such as besides, in fact, actually and instead can 
be used to reinforce these meanings. 

2 Similar meanings of alternation and contrast can be expressed by finite clauses 
in a relationship of dependency, signalled by the connectives while, whereas 
and except that, among others. Non-finite clauses can be introduced by the 
conjunctive prepositions besides, without and instead of. 


The combination of equal status and the meaning of extension is encoded as coordina- 
tion between clauses. As we have seen, clauses can be conjoined when they share related 
meanings and fulfil the same function. Linking is carried out by the coordinators and, or, 
nor, but and yet. These have fixed positions at the clause boundary, unlike cohesive 
connectives such as instead and actually, which are more moveable. 

34.1 .1 Addition - and, or, nor, but, yet 

Two situations are represented as adjoined in a relationship of equality that is positive, 
negative or adversative. The adversative expresses contrast: 

He doesn't like bacon and also he's better without it. (positive) 

I have no intention of going, nor in fact did I ever promise to. (negative) 

It's an extremely simple device, but actually it's very effective, (adversative) 


Additive connectives include also, furthermore, in addition, besides. 

Upgrading connectives include in fact, as a matter of fact, actually. The upgrading 
connectives that we have seen clarifying appositional clauses are equally appropriate 
with coordinated clauses, whether additive or adversative, since they add force to the 
argument. As can be seen from the previous examples, actually can indicate surprise; it 
also signals that what follows may be contrary to expectations. These features makes 
it especially useful with the adversative conjunction but, since contrast and surprise 
are compatible. Yet shares these features of surprise and contrast, and can be used as 
an alternative to but with surprisal and concessive meanings: 

A four-year-old child was buried for three days under rubble, yet survived. 

34.1.2 Variation - but instead; in fact; only 

This is replacive coordination, which can occur after a negative or a positive statement. 
The second clause is presented as replacing the first clause or contrasting with it. 
Variation connectives include instead, in fact and only. In fact is here not additive but 

He didn't stay even an hour, but instead returned to London on the next train. 

Peaches are marvellous just now, only they are very expensive. 

She promised to keep in touch, but in fact she never wrote or phoned us. 

34.1 .3 Alternation - either . . . or(else); neither . . . nor 

Alternation is expressed by the coordinator or. The meaning can be reinforced by adding 
else (or else) and by the correlative coordinators either . . . or. These make explicit 
the meaning of alternation (either we stay or we leave now), which excludes one 
alternative, while the negative correlates neither . . . nor exclude both: 

You should (either) accept his offer or (else) never see him again. 
Either we give the tickets back or (else) we drop everything and go. 
You should neither ask him for money nor accept it if he offers. 

Connectives associated with alternation include alternatively, conversely, on the other 

We can arrange for a hotel room to be booked or, alternatively, self-catering facilities 

are available. 
You can add the wine to the water, or conversely, you can add the water to the wine. 

34.1.4 Explanation 

The second clause comments on or explains the first clause: 

There's one thing you must realise and that is that I'm leaving. 


The following passage from Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited shows the use that can 
be made of apposition and coordination to present a situation as being composed of a 
number of related, though independent situations. It is noticeable that the author makes 
no use of explicit connectives to reinforce the meaning of the second clause; the 
semantic connection between the clauses is simply inferred, while the appositional 
relationships are signalled by means of punctuation: 

There were few left in the mess now of the batch of volunteers who trained together 
at the outbreak of war; one way or another they were nearly all gone 1 - some had 
been invalided out, ,a some promoted to other battalions," 1 some had volunteered 
for special service, 1 ' one had got himself killed on the field firing range, ,d one had 
been court-martialled' 8 - and their places were taken by conscripts; 2 the wireless 
played incessantly in the ante-room nowadays 3 and much beer was drunk before 
dinner; 4 it was not as it had been. 5 

'elaboration (clarifying apposition); '^elaboration (exemplifying apposition); 
Extension (resultative coordination); Elaboration (restating apposition); 
"•extension (additive coordination); Elaboration (restating apposition) 


Meanings similar to those encoded by coordination seen in 34.1 can also be expressed 
by the combination of dependency and extension. The conjunctions whereas and while 
introduce finite subordinate clauses which contrast in some way with the main clause, 
especially when there is also some point of similarity between the two, as in: 

Jane already speaks two foreign languages, whereas her brother hasn't yet learned 

Michelle, 24, works in an electronics factory, while Colette, 15, is still at school. 

[BNC A7P 409] 

Whereas is more formal than while. For the temporal meaning of while, see section 35.4. 1 . 
Except that, but that and but for the fact that express the meaning of exception: 

I would take you to the station, except that the car is being repaired. 
It would have been a disaster, but for the fact that everyone helped to save the 

The forms containing subject-operator inversion (were it not for the fact that . . . had 
it not been for the fact that . . .) can also be used, but are more formal and are stylistically 
marked forms to express hypothetical situations. 


The subordinates which expresses the meaning of alternation is if. . . not, and 
corresponds to either ... or in coordinating combinations: 

If your purse isn't here, you must have left it somewhere. ( = Either your purse is 
here, or you must have left it somewhere) 


Functioning conjunctively to introduce non-finite -ing forms, we have prepositions: 

with an additive meaning: besides, as well as 

with replacive, adversative and subtractive meanings: instead of, without, other 


An alternative analysis to the conjunctive use of the prepositions is that of a prepositional 
phrase with a non-finite clause as its complement. 

Besides/ as well as caring for her own family, Mary runs a kindergarten, (additive) 
Instead o/turning down that side road, you should have kept straight on. (replacive) 
He has embarked on a huge project, without realising what is involved, (adversative) 
You won't get any information from him other than by paying him. (subtractive) 


Without a preposition, the -ing form is indeterminate in meaning. We find it interpreted 
as having elaborative, extending and enhancing meanings, and we should not be 
surprised if in some cases it is difficult to determine the exact semantic nuance 
expressed. This is not to be considered as some sort of deficiency, but rather as an 
economical means of expressing relationships which are not required to be further 
specified, since hearers and readers infer the relevance of the relationship intended by 
the writer. With the -ing form and a main clause with a finite verb, the following implied 
meanings are typical: 

an action (main clause) and a mental process (-ing clause) occurring 

They drove on, wondering how long their petrol would last, (additive = and 

a mental process, with the -ing clause implying an adversative meaning + 
an action: 

Not realising the danger, she stumbled towards the edge of the cliff, (adversative 
= she stumbled . . . but she didn't realise the danger/without realising the 
two or more actions occurring simultaneously: 

The dog leapt forward, baring its teeth, (additive) 


two consecutive actions: 

Leaving the car unlocked, he walked quickly towards the group of people. 

(additive = He left the car unlocked and walked . . .) 
the same, but replacive: 

He barely stayed to express his condolences, returning to London on the next 

train, (replacive = instead, he returned . . .) 
a mental process {-ing clause with an explanatory meaning) and an action: 

Hardly feeling the cold, she removed her coat and gloves, (because she hardly 

felt the cold . . .) 

Note that the main-dependent order of the clauses may be reversed (see Chapter 6 
for the thematic significance of initial non-finites). 

The following extract from David Lodge's Thinks . . . illustrates some of these 
meanings, as well as coordinated clauses and an -en supplementive clause (supervised 
by Carrie): 

My 'lunch' invitation had been stretched inordinately, and in the end we all left the 
house together at about seven o'clock. Suddenly the pace of life speeded up. 
Everybody bustled about, supervised by Carrie, picking up things and putting them 
away, resetting thermostats and turning off lights, drawing curtains and fastening 
shutters, making the house secure for another week. It was as if the curtains had 
come down on some dreamy pastoral idyll, and the company was suddenly 
galvanized into action, shedding their costumes and packing up their props before 
moving on to the next venue. We parted in the lane outside the house as we got into 
our respective cars. I said goodbye and thanked them sincerely. 




1 We use the term 'enhancing' for those dependent clauses which expand the 
meaning of the main clause by providing some circumstantial feature: time, 
place, manner, condition, purpose, cause, concession, etc. They correspond in 
general to the 'adverbial clauses' of traditional grammar. Their function is to 
add background information. 

2 Not all enhancing clauses are subordinate, however. So (of result) yet and then 
have a coordinating function when preceded by and, making the coordination 

3 A great variety of conjunctions and conjunctive expressions are available to 
express circumstantial meanings. Non-finite verb forms are also used, of which 
the fo-infinitive is the most explicit. 


The combination of coordination (or apposition) and circumstantial meaning gives a 
kind of coordination that is intermediate between that of the 'pure' coordinators - and, 
but and or - and subordination. The secondary clause is introduced by one of the 

the connective adverbs then, so, yet, still and the conjunction for, 

a conjunctive combination formed by and followed by another item: and then, and 

here, and this, and so, and yet, 

and plus a connective such as at that time, soon afterwards, till then, in that case. 


Some of the circumstantial meanings expressed by these combinations are listed below: 

time: now; then 

The lights have gone out; now we won't be able to do any more today. 

They spread the cloth on the grass and then began unpacking the picnic things. 

place: and there 

She turned the corner, and there stood Robin waiting for her. 


either (a) means (and) (in) that way 

Put labels on everything, and (in) that way you 11 know what you 've got in the freezer. 

or (b) comparison: (and) similarly; in the same way; likewise; and so . . . 

The Secretary of the Association should be informed of any change of address; 

similarly, the Treasurer should be notified of changes regarding the payment of 

The face of a small baby is different from that of every other baby; in the same way, 

the development of each child is different. 
He likes music, and so does she. 

cause/effect: and so 

We had left the tickets at home, and so there was nothing to do but go back for them. 

effect/cause: for (rather formal) 

We left in silence, for there was little we could say. 

condition (positive): and then; (and) in that case 

You might have an accident, and in that case who would rescue you? 

condition (negative): otherwise; or else 

Replace everything carefully in the drawers; otherwise something will get mislaid. 

concession: still; yet 

My age is against me; still, there's no harm in trying. 

He criticises his colleagues, (and) yet relies on them for support. 

consequence: consequently; as a result 

He had not taken the precaution of being vaccinated and as a result he got malaria. 

35.1.1 Inferred meanings of 'and' 

Even without the help of connectives, the conjunction and is pragmatically interpreted, 
according to context, as expressing meanings of simultaneity, sequentiality, condition, 
cause-effect, result and concession: 

I made the sandwiches and Jill made the salad . . . (simultaneity) 

He got dressed quickly and went out. (temporal sequence) 

He was found guilty of harassment and was dismissed from his post, (cause-effect) 

You give me your telephone number and I'll give you mine, (condition) 

She came to my house and I was out. (inclusion: time 'while') 


35.1 .2 Similar meanings expressed by coordinators 
and subordinators 

Certain meanings such as contrast and concession can be expressed by either 
coordinators or subordinators: 

He was the best of them all and (yet) didn't come first, (coordinator) 
He was the best of them all but didn't come first, (coordinator) 
Although he was the best of them all, he didn't come first, (subordinator) 


Dependency combined with enhancement is encoded as the traditional adverbial clauses 
of time, condition, purpose, concession, reason and manner. They are either finite or 
non-finite. When introduced by subordinators they are frequently termed 'subordinate 

35.2.1 Finite dependent clauses and subordinators 

Finite clauses are introduced by a subordinator, which serves to indicate the dependent 
status of the clause together with its circumstantial meaning. Formally, subordinating 
conjunctions can be grouped as follows: 

• simple conjunctions: when, whenever, where, wherever, because, if, unless, until, 

while, as, although 

• conjunctive groups: as if, as though, even if, even though, even when, soon after, 

no sooner 
complex conjunctions: there are three subclasses: 

(i) derived from verbs, usually from present or past participles, but occasionally 
from imperatives. All but the adverbial type have optional that: provided (that), 
granted (that), considering (that), seeing (that), suppose (that), supposing (that), so 

(ii) containing a noun: in case, in the event that, to the extent that, in spite of the fact 
that, the day, the way 

(iii) adverbial: so/ as long as, as soon as, so/ as far as, much as, now (that) 

Some of these conjunctions and the meanings they convey in finite dependent clauses 
are illustrated below. Certain meanings, such as time, have several subtypes: for instance, 
'eventive' refers to an event that really occurs or occurred, whereas 'potential' refers to 
an event that hasn't yet occurred and perhaps won't occur. Other terms for eventive 
and potential are 'realis' and 'irrealis', respectively. Most conjunctions of time can be 
used to introduce either meaning. 



As (simultaneous) 

After (anteriority) eventive 

Before (potential event) 

Since (starting point of duration) 

When (eventive) 
When (potential event) 
Whenever (potential/eventive) 

While (time - simultaneous) 

Now that (time-reason) 

As soon as (eventive) 
The day (eventive) 

The moment (potential) 

Until (duration + end point) 

The crowd roared as the ball went into the 

Soon after the war ended, the men returned. 
He got away before they could stop him. 
I haven't seen him since we were at school 

When he saw me, he waved. 
When you reach the station, give me a ring. 
Come round whenever you like. He visits 

whenever he can. 
The burglar broke into the house while they 

were asleep. 
Now that the days are longer, it's worth driving 

up to the Lakes. 
As soon as she got into bed, the telephone rang. 
We first met the day we went on a staff 

The moment you hear the car draw up, give 

me a shout. 
Stay in bed until the pain goes away. 


As far as (to the extent that . . 

In so far as (to the degree 

that . . . ) 
If '(open condition) 

//"(rhetorical condition) 
Unless (negative condition) 

As long as (condition) 

Provided that (condition) 

Before (implied condition) 
Although/ though (concession) 
While (concession) 

Much as (concession) 

As (reason) 

As far as I know, no date has been fixed for 

the wedding. 
In so far as their marketing policy is a policy at 

all, it may reach its targets. 
If all goes well, we should finish by tomorrow 

at the latest. 
If you believe that, you'll believe anything 
You won't be allowed in unless you are 

wearing a tie. 
Go wherever you like, as long as you don't get 

Provided (that) you give me the order, I will 

deliver the goods in ten days' time. 
Get out before I call the police! 
He'll probably say no, though it's worth trying. 
While I admire his tenacity, I deplore his 

Much as I dislike driving in heavy traffic, I've 

got to put up with it or live somewhere else. 
As he's an only child, he gets a good deal of 



Because (reason) We had to stay overnight, because the car 

broke down. 
Since (reason) Since he won't answer the phone, we'd better 

leave a note. 
So that (purpose) Fasten the sunshade securely, so that it won't 

blow away. 
In order that (purpose) In order that no mistakes should be made, 

everyone was informed by letter. 
So that (result) The oil tanker ran aground, so that the whole 

coastline was polluted. 


As if/ As though He talks as if/ as though he owned the place. 

The way (manner) The way things are going, there'll be more 

tourists than residents here. 

Note that, when referring to a potential future event or state, the verb in time clauses 
in English, unlike some languages, does not take will or a subjunctive, nor a future perfect 
form of the verb, but instead a normal present or past form, occasionally should + 
infinitive. This is illustrated by the examples with the moment and until, and is equally 
applicable to other time subordinators such as when and as soon as. 

Causal, concessive, conditional and resultative clauses depend on the hearer's 
knowledge of the world, which provides an inferential link between the content of the 
main clause and that of the dependent clause. For instance, in the example of the 
oil tanker, the inferred proposition that links the cause to the effect is suggested as 






a 9 


(inferential link) 

[oil leaks from a 


that the 







Conjunctions express the semantic relationship between the units they connect, 
reflecting the speaker's view of the connection between states of affairs in the world. 
Pragmatic conjunction, on the other hand, has more to do with speech acts or with 
discourse moves than with experiential organisation as described above. Compare: 

1 If all goes well, we'll reach Dover by four, (experiential) 

2 If you're looking for Amy, she's left, (pragmatic) 


In 1, reaching Dover by four is conditional on all going well. In 2, however, it is not 
possible to interpret the relationship experientially, as in 1. The fact that Amy has left 
is not conditioned by the possibility that you may be looking for her. Rather, in 2 the if- 
clause specifies a situation in which the main clause she's left would be relevant. In other 
words, the /^speech act indicates the condition under which the following speech act 
counts. Now compare the following: 

3 Sam arrived late because he missed his train. 

4 Is there a fire somewhere? 'Cos I can smell smoke. 

In 3 the because-clause states the reason Sam arrived late - he missed his train. In 4, on 
the other hand, my smelling smoke is not the reason for the fire. Rather, the because- 
clause - here in its abbreviated form 'cos - gives a reason for the performance of the 
speech act of enquiring whether there is a fire. 

Pragmatic clauses with 'cos, as in 4, have something in common with non-restrictive 
supplementive clauses: both are semantically and prosodically independent while 
syntactically marked as dependent (by a conjunction and by a wh- relative, respectively). 
These somewhat conflictive properties lead one to think that both pragmatic 
conjunctions and the wh- non-restrictor are taking on functions in discourse different 
from the traditional functions ascribed to them. 

Both 2 and 4 give reasons or justifications for the speech act expressed in the main 
clause. In a different sub-type of pragmatic conjunction, the conjunction itself implicitly 
signals the kind of speech act being performed. In 5 the contrastive meaning of but is 
pragmatic as well as semantic. It signals as inappropriate A's request to know the time, 
since speaker A has a watch him/herself: the adversative meaning of but here takes on 
the force of a mild protest. 

5 A. Can you tell me the time? 

B. But you're wearing a watch yourself! 

Pragmatic conjunctions occur sentence-initially and paragraph-initially, often at the 
beginning of a speaker's turn in conversation, typically (though not necessarily) in direct 
relation to what the previous speaker has just said, as in 5 and 6. 

And is the most difficult to characterise. One possibility is that, whereas ordinary and 
connects units which make up a single category of knowledge, pragmatic and re-opens 
a concluded category, making it an explicit point of departure for a new unit, a new 
direction in spoken and written discourse. It is common at turn boundaries in 
conversation and also in radio and television presentations (7). 

So indicates that a conclusion has been drawn, while pragmatic or introduces a 
question. Both so and or elicit a response. For as a conjunction is always pragmatic, 
while since sometimes is - that is, when it gives a reason for the statement made in the 
main clause (10, 1 1). They are both rather formal. 

6a He stopped me and said 'Where are you going?' (experiential) 

6b And I said 'Just down the road to the bank.' (pragmatic) 

7 And now it's nine o'clock and time for the news. 

8 So this is where you live. 


9 Can you give me a hand with this? Or don't you want to have it fixed? 

10 We all fell silent, for there was nothing else to say. 

1 1 Since you're here, you may as well sit down. 


35.4.1 Explicit markers of circumstantial meanings 

Not all conjunctions and prepositions are able to function as introducers of non-finite 
dependent clauses. Those that can do so form a subset of the total class of each: 

subset of conjunctions 


while (time) 
while (concession) 



rather than/ sooner than 
(with bare infinitive) 

Take extra care when driving at night. 

While talking, he jotted everything down on a pad. 

While agreeing basically with your proposal, we would 

nevertheless suggest certain amendments. 
Though feeling unwell, she made an effort to appear 

.//■travelling abroad, watch out for pickpockets. 
Rather/sooner than wait for hours, she returned the 

following day. 

subset of (conjunctive) prepositions 







without (concession) 

without (reason) 

Look both ways before crossing the road. 

After applying one coat of paint, leave to dry. 

I have thought about it a great deal since receiving your 

From being a junior clerk, he rose to become General 

By turning this handle, you can make ice-cubes come out. 
In learning a foreign language, several skills are involved. 
On entering the mosque, we were impressed by its 

With redecorating the house, our funds are pretty low. 
Without wishing to offend our hostess, I should like to 

leave now. 
Without having read the book, I can't give an opinion. 



Certain circumstantial meanings of enhancement are frequently expressed by the to- 
infinitive, the -ing and the -en participle forms alone. Of these, the to-infinitive form is 
the most explicit, since it usually signals purpose. Some examples follow of verb forms 
used in this way: 

to-infinitive clauses: To relieve backache, apply liniment twice daily. 
Don't do it just to please me. 

-ing clauses: Living abroad, he rarely sees his relatives. 

(= because he lives abroad) 

-en clauses: Too excited to sleep, he paced up and down the room, 

(because he was too excited to sleep) 

There is one use of the to-infinitive in dependent clauses which is extending rather than 
enhancing in meaning; that is, it seems to replace coordination, as in: 

She arrived home to find the house empty. ( = and found the house empty) (Adjunct 
of 'outcome') 

Conventions of good English require that the implicit subject of a non-finite clause 
should be identical with the explicit subject of the main clause. Compare the acceptable 
(i) with the less acceptable (ii), which unintentionally suggests that the jellyfish was 
bathing in the sea: 

(i) Bathing in the sea, I got stung by a jellyfish, 
(ii) Bathing in the sea, a jellyfish stung me. 

That this norm is not always adhered to is illustrated by the following 'editor's comment' 
from the BBC series Yes, Prime Minister. 

[Working funerals are the best sort of summit meeting. Ostensibly arranged for 
another purpose, statesmen and diplomats can mingle informally at receptions, 
churches and gravesides, and achieve more than at ten 'official' summits for which 
expectations have been aroused. This is presumably why Hacker immediately agreed 
to a state funeral for his late and unlamented predecessor - Ed.] 

(Jonathan Lynn and Anthony Jay, The Complete Yes Prime Minister) 



These clauses are usually placed either before the main clause as in 1, or after it, as 
in 2: 

1 If you have a problem, call us immediately. 

2 Call us any time if you need advice. 

Position is related to the degree of integration of the two clauses. 

Semantically, a circumstantial clause in final position tends to have tight local 
connections to the main clause, to which it may be linked without a comma in writing 
or a pause in speech. In such cases it is closely integrated into the semantic structure 
of the main clause: 

3 The problem arises because there is nothing in our day-to-day life to provide us 
with sufficient exercise. [bnc ayk 199] 

From a discourse perspective, an initial circumstantial clause tends to have wider textual 
connections with what preceded it, often reaching back some distance. It also provides 
a frame for what follows, often for the whole clause or even more, as it can be not only 
sentence-initial but also paragraph-initial and episode-initial (see Chapter 6). It is likely 
to be followed by a comma or pause. Consequently an initial circumstantial clause is 
less integrated into the structure of the main clause. The following example illustrates 
the greater integration of the final to-infinitive clause compared with the framing function 
of the initial because clause. We consider both to have the syntactic status of adjunct, 
however, as both are embedded. 

4 Because tranquillisers simply mask symptoms rather than provide a cure, you 
may need to seek help to deal with the problem which caused you to need the tablets 
in the first place. [bnc ayk 183] 

Position is also related to information structure, discussed in Chapter 6. In a complex 
sentence, the initial clause is likely to contain given information, while the final clause 
tends to present the new. In 3 the main clause is initial, with 'the problem' referring 
to preceding discourse, while the clause of reason provides new information. In 4 we 
have the reverse: the reason clause presents as known the fact that tranquillisers mask 
symptoms, preparing the way for the main clause and the final purpose clause as new. 

An initial dependent clause, often with progressive aspect (see 43.4), can provide a 
background state or activity for an event in past tense: 

While all the other kids were pulling on their coats, the teacher found Harry sitting 
sobbing in the cloakroom. [bnc chr 913] 





1 Speakers report the utterances of other speakers, or their own, in one of two 
ways: either directly by 'direct reported speech' (also known as 'quoted 
speech'), or indirectly by 'indirect reported speech'. Thought processes can also 
be reported. Quoted speech supposedly repeats the exact words spoken, 
whereas indirect speech reporting gives the content or even only the gist of what 
was said. 

2 Verbs of saying and of thinking are used to introduce direct speech and thought, 
respectively. Idiomatic uses of the verbs go and be like are also used by some 
speakers as alternatives to verbs of saying. 

3 Indirect reporting of speech (traditionally known as 'indirect speech' ) reports 
the content of statements, questions and directives. A number of formal adjust- 
ments are made, referred to as 'backshift', which shift deictic elements away 
from the speech situation to the reported situation. 

4 In fictional dialogue, and to a lesser extent in conversation, a wide variety of 
reporting verbs occur, many not strictly verbs of speaking, which aim to convey 
such features as speaker's stance, voice quality and speech-act force. 

5 In addition, and in order to give the reader the illusion of entering a character's 
mind, writers of fiction combine features of quoted and reported speech to 
produce the varieties known as 'free direct speech' and 'free indirect speech'. 


There are two main ways of reporting what someone said or what we ourselves said: 
directly 1, and indirectly 2: 

1 She said 'I'll wait for you'. 

2 She said she would wait for us. 


Direct ('quoted') speech reporting supposedly repeats the exact words that someone 
said or wrote, while indirect speech reporting gives the meaning, or the gist of the 
content. Depending on the verb used, a good deal of further information can also be 
provided - for instance, the type of speech act being carried out, such as asking, 
complaining, responding, or the voice quality of the speaker: 

'I hear you've been having a tough time,' he responded. 

'You haven't sent me the Sunday supplement,' she complained. 

Between quoted and indirect reported speech, there is a difference of immediacy. In 
quoting, the quoted clause appears to have independent status; its effect, therefore, is 
more dramatic and life-like. Tenses, pronouns and other deictic elements are orientated 
towards the speech situation, while in reported speech they shift away from it. The 
formal modifications of this shift are explained in section 36.3. 

There is also a difference in referring back to something which has been quoted and 
something which has been reported. To refer to the actual words quoted, a reference 
word such as that is typically used, whereas to refer to an indirect report, a substitute 
form such as so or not is used: 

He said, 'I'll pay this time.' Did he really say that? 

He said he would pay that time. Did he really say so? 

This is because the quoted words refer to a real event that can be referred back to, 
whereas the reported version is a representation of a representation, that is of what 
someone said. 


Direct ('quoted') speech is a common feature of everyday conversation, of fictional 
dialogue and, to a lesser extent, news and other genres. In direct speech, the reporting 
clause contains a verb of saying, while the reported clause contains what is said. The 
reporting clause may be placed initially, finally or medially. If it is placed medially, the 
quoted speech is discontinuous as in (c).With a proper name, inversion of subject and 
verb is another option (d). However, with a pronoun (said she), inversion is archaic. 

(a) She said, 'I'm a telly addict and I always have been'. 

(b) 'I'm a telly addict and I always have been,' she said. 

(c) 'I'm a telly addict', she said, 'and I always have been.' 

(d) 'I'm a telly addict', said Danielle, 'and I always have been.' 

As there is no linking or subordinating element in (a) between the reporting verb 
and the quoted speech, the structural relationship between them is indeterminate. In 
(b), (c) and (d) the reporting clause is clearly parenthetical. 

In spoken English, the reporting clause receives less prosodic prominence than what 
is reported, in whatever position it occurs. This reflects the fact that what is said is more 
important than the introductory clause of saying. 


These two features - the mobility of the reporting clause and the importance of what 
is said - are sometimes interpreted as evidence that / think, he said, for example, in 
whatever position, are not main clauses at all, but are better analysed as epistemic, 
evidential or evaluative parentheticals, while what is traditionally classed as the 
complement clause is in fact the main proposition. 

A further view sees the relationship between the clauses as one of projection: the 
reporting clause 'projects' the projected clause as either a locution or an idea. 

Quoted speech in conversation and written dialogue 

Verbs used to introduce quoted speech in conversation and writing are summarised in 
the table below. 


Written dialogue 

say (and, less commonly, te//) 
go, be like 

not normally used 

ask is used - the others not normally used 

not normally used 

normally only shout 

not normally used 

Say is the basic verb 

Tell, write (the latter quoting written sources is 
used only to characterise a type of user) 

Verbs quoting statements: announce, explain, 
observe, point out, remark, report 

Verbs quoting questions: ask, demand, query, 
enquire, and exclamations: exclaim 

Verbs indicating speech act force: affirm, 

answer, argue, beg, complain, object, 

protest, urge, warn, 
or verbs which refer to the circumstances 

of the speech act: interrupt, reply, 


Verbs indicating manner of locution: bark, 
bleat, chirp, cry, drawl, grumble, hiss, 
holler, moan, mumble, murmur, mutter, 
scream, shout, shriek, snap, snarl, stutter, 
whisper, whine, yell 

Non-utterance emotive verbs accompanying 

Laughter: chuckle, laugh, smile, grin, giggle, 

Weeping: sob, moan, wail 
Excitement, concern: breathe, pant 
Incredulity: gasp 
Pain, anger: bellow, choke, flash 


For the difference between say and tell, see Chapter 3. Basically, say is a two-place 
verb which does not take a core Recipient, not admitting, for example, *say me your 
name. Tell is a three-place verb with a core Recipient (tell me your name). Pragmatically, 
say is used to report a locution (what is said), while tell typically informs. 

Go and be like are becoming widely used as quotative alternatives to say, both in 
younger speakers' conversation and in the popular media. Like says and said, go and be 
like signal that the speaker is moving into direct speech mode. Normal combinations of 
tense and aspect occur with go and be like; however, the present tense appears to 
predominate even for past time reference (I'm like, she's like): 

. . . and I was going . . . I'll have to take my stereo home and he goes yeah your 
stereo's quite big isn't it, and / went when have you seen my stereo and he goes oh 
I came up the other day to see if you were in. / went why why, he said I just came 
round to your room and you weren't there but your music was on. 

[BNC KPH 1361-1362] 

'It's just happened so fast,' says the former Shanna Jackson. 'Some days people will 
call me "Paris" and I'm like, "Who?" My mother still refuses to call me Paris.' 

[BNC HSJ 663-664] 

The range of verbs used as 'quotatives' is wider in written dialogue than in spoken 
because writers attempt to heighten interest by conveying not only the words said but 
also something of voice quality, attitude and manner of speaking of the character, 
whether fictional or real. All these are perceived by hearers in a speech situation but are 
absent from basic verbs of saying. Examples 1, 3, 5 are taken from Lightning in May, 2 
and 4 from Girls Out Late and 6 from The Peacemakers: 

1 'I'll take the cases,' he whispered. 

2 'I haven't got any money,' I hiss. 

3 'Come on, lads,' Tommy yelled. 

4 'You're mad at me, aren't you?' I mumble. 

5 'I said come in, Mrs. Friar!' John barked at her 

6 Trumbic gasped. "You can't be serious." 

Direct reporting of thought 

Not only words may be quoted, but also thoughts. The first two examples below are 
often heard in the spoken language, the third would be typical in fiction: 

I think I'll have a beer. 

I wonder what he's doing. 

'I'll have to get a new bulb for this lamp,' thought Peter. 

Mental process verbs which occur as quotatives are few in number in English, in 
comparison with the wide variety of verbs used in quoted speech. They include think, 
the basic verb, and other verbs of cognition which express some additional, often 
aspectual meaning: muse, ponder, reflect, wonder. 


In representing their characters' thought, writers of fictional narrative often omit the 
prosodic signals of quoting (inverted commas or dashes), and make the clause of 
thinking parenthetical. The following extract from Virginia Woolf s Mrs Dalloway 
illustrates this technique: 

He's very well dressed, thought Clarissa, yet he always criticises me. 

Here she is mending her dress; mending her dress as usual, he thought; here she's 
been sitting all the time I've been in India; mending her dress; running to the House 
and back and all that, he thought, growing more and more irritated, more and more 
agitated, for there's nothing in the world so bad for some women as marriage, he 
thought; and politics; and having a Conservative husband, like the admirable 
Richard. So it is, so it is, he thought, shutting his knife with a snap. 


Indirect speech reporting is characterised by a series of formal features that distinguish 
it from quoted speech reporting. They have the effect of shifting all deictic elements 
(personal pronouns, demonstratives, tense and adverbs of time and place) away from 
direct reference to the speech situation, and instead to the reporting situation, as in the 
following example (we don't give all the possible personal pronoun shifts, which depend 
on context): 

'I want you to drink this juice.' I/you/he/she said she wanted him/me to drink 

that juice. 

The shifts involved are as follows: 

Personal pronouns in the 1st person, which refer to the speaker, are shifted to 
2nd or 3rd person, unless the speaker is reporting him/herself, as in 1 below. The 
2nd person pronoun, which refers to the listener, is shifted to 1st or 3rd, according 
to the identity of the listener, again as in 1. 

Demonstratives and deictic adverbs which refer to the here and now (this, these, 
here, now) are replaced by more remote forms (that, those, there, then) 1 and 4. 
Verb tenses are 'back-shifted' - that is, present forms are replaced by past forms 
1, 2, 4, 5. This shift is not obligatory if the described state still holds, as in 3. 
Clause type is also affected. A quoted interrogative with say is replaced by a 
declarative introduced by ask in reported speech 7. Imperatives and verbless clauses 
have less clear correspondences, and are discussed later in this and other sections. 


Direct (quoted) speech 

Indirect speech 

1 '1 want you to drink this juice.' 

1/ you/ he/ she said l/she wanted him/ me 
to drink that juice. 

2 '1 won't be long,' she said. 

She said she wouldn't be long. 

3 He said 'We are naked apes. They 
are the same as us inside.' 

He said that we are/ were naked apes and 
that they are the same as us inside. 

4 'Can you leave this book here?' 
he said. 

He asked if 1/ we/ she could leave that 
book there. 

5 'It's good!' Magda says. 

Madga said that it was good. 

6 'Do it yourselves!' 1 said. 

1 told them to do it themselves. 

7 'Must you go so soon?' she said. 

She asked whether we/ they had to go as 
soon as that. 

Verbs used in indirect statements and questions are essentially the same as those 
used in quoting. The main exceptions are shown in the table. 

Verbs used only in quoting 

Verbs used only in indirect reporting 


verbs which express rhetorical 
processes: claim, deny, hypothesise, 
imply, insinuate, maintain, make out, 


verbs of cognition, wishing and 
affection: believe, feel, hold (=believej, 
imagine, understand, fear, suspect, 
think, hope, wish, want, like. 

(c) Non-utterance verbs as in 36.2, 

such as laugh, smile, sob, moan, gasp: 

Occasionally, these verbs are used in indirect 
reporting, for instance: 

'Thank you,' she smiled. 
'Yes,' he sighed. 

She smiled her thanks. 
He sighed his consent. 

(a) Verbs such as claim, deny, insinuate represent an interpretation on the part of the 
reporter of the speech act force in the original situation, and can indicate a certain 
stance, for instance of reservation or disbelief: 

She claims her mother was related to a Polish aristocrat. 

He denies being involved in the incident. 

Are you insinuating that he knows something about it? 


(b) The combination of mental processes with a reporting clause is the normal way of 
representing what people think, believe, hope, want and like. These typically occur 
as reported states of wishing, wanting, and so on, since such mental states are rarely 
quoted; even the possible form with let as in 'Let me be the first to speak to him ', Janet 
wished is relatively infrequent. Syntactically, they are no different from the 
complementation patterns described in Chapter 3: 

I hope that no damage has been done 
It is feared that many lives have been lost. 
She wishes she had never met him. 

(c) Conversely, verbs which are not intrinsically verbs of saying are not normally 
used in indirect reporting. These include verbs of laughing, weeping, and the like, 
as exemplified in section 36.2. A quoted locution such as 'So what?', he sneered would 
be difficult to report in a similar form, and even perhaps with a similar meaning. A 
paraphrase such as He asked with a sneer what it mattered might be considered 
acceptable within a certain context. 


So far we have considered quoted or reported statements and questions. We now turn 
to the reporting of directives - reported offers, suggestions and commands - which 
typically involves summary and paraphrase. Certain verbs are used in quoted directives 
but are not used for reporting. Conversely, there are many verbs used in reported 
directives that are not used in quoting. There is some overlap, however, as maybe seen 
from the table below. 

Quoted directives 

Reported directives 

the general verb say 

the general verb tell 

verbs specific to offers, suggestions and 

some, but not all of those in quoted directives: 

commands: call, suggest, offer, order, 

suggest, order, command, request, tell 

request, tell 

verbs embodying some circumstantial or 

the same as in quoted directives 

other semantic feature: threaten, vow, 

promise, agree, beg, insist, plead, urge, 


verbs with a connotative meaning: bark, 

not used 

bleat, sob, gasp 

not used 

verbs expressing a wide range 

of complex rhetorical processes: encourage, 

forbid, persuade, recommend 



When we quote an offer, order or suggestion directly, there is typically an imperative 
in the quoted clause: 

1 'Hurry up\', she said (to us). 

2 'Do eat more slowly', she begged the child. 

3 'Come in and sit down', I suggested (to her). 

In reported directives, the imperative of the quoted type is replaced by one of four 
structures. The first two are: 

an Object + to-infinitive after verbs such as tell, order, command, urge, beg as in 1, 2; 


a that-clause after verbs of recommending, insisting, proposing and suggesting as 

in 3 (see also Chapter 3). 

The examples 1-3 of quoted directives would be reported as follows: 

4 She told/ urged us to hurry up. 

5 She begged the child to eat more slowly. 

6 I suggested that she (should) come in and sit down. 

Say takes a that-dause containing an embedded directive expressed either by the semi- 
auxiliary be to or by a modal of obligation (should, must, have to). See also Section 11.2 
for the complementation patterns of say and tell. 
Using say, example 1 could be reported as follows: 

7 She said (that) we were to hurry up. 

8 She said (that) we should/must hurry up. 

Say can also report a to-infinitive clause with no subject (9). In AmE a subject of the 
reported clause is here preceded by for ( 1 0) . In both cases the use of say rather than tell 
suggests that the message is being relayed by a 3rd person. Compare these with 11: 

9 She said to hurry. 

1 She said for us to hurry. 

1 1 She told us to hurry. 

Of the verbs indicating manner of locution listed on page 301 and used in fictional 
narrative to introduce quoted speech, only a few can be used in reporting, and require 
an oblique Object. They are usually verbal processes with an emotive element 

(Turn off the gas!', he yelled.) He yelled to me to turn off the gas. 

('Stay a little longer', he whispered.) He whispered to her to stay a little longer. 


Verbless clauses are quite common in quoted speech, especially in fictional narrative: 

'Not a word!', he whispered (to us). He whispered to us not to say/ breathe a word. 

The absence of a verb presents a problem in reporting. Frequently a verb can be 
provided, although again this involves an interpretation on the part of the reporter. 
Inevitably, therefore, more than one reported version is possible, some differing 
considerably from the quoted version: 

'This way, please', the usher said. The usher asked/ invited (us?) to accompany 

The usher showed (us?) the way. 

As can be seen from these examples, an additional problem in reporting verbless 
clauses is that not only a verb but also a receiver of the directive must be provided. 
Presumably, the context or the co-text would enable the Recipient of the offer, order or 
suggestion to be identified. The verbless clause, itself, however, does not provide this 
information. In effect, the two versions are different messages. 


We have seen so far that speakers and writers make use of direct speech and indirect 
speech to report the statements, questions and directives of others. In their attempts to 
portray the stream of thought of their characters, writers have modified the paradigm 
of reporting as outlined in the preceding sections in certain ways. 

What we call 'free direct speech or thought' consists in omitting the inverted 
commas or dashes which conventionally signal quoting, as seen in the extract from Mrs 
Dalloway. More drastically, the reporting clause is omitted altogether. This is called 'free 
indirect speech' and also covers cognitive processes. In addition, certain structures 
of direct speech are retained, such as direct questions and exclamations, vocatives, 
utterance-time adverbs such as now and tag questions. Other features may belong to 
indirect speech, however: tense back-shift, and the temporal and spatial shifts of deictic 
words towards remoteness. 

Some of these features are present in the following extract from Joyce Carol Oates' 
story Happy, which describes a girl's journey home from the airport with her mother 
and her mother's new husband. 

They stopped for dinner at a Polynesian restaurant ten miles up the Turnpike, her 
mother explaining that there wasn't anything decent to eat at horned also it was 
getting late, wasn't it, tomorrow she'd be making a big dinner, 2 That's okay honey 
isn't it? 3 She and her new husband quarrelled about getting on the Turnpike then 
exiting right away, but at dinner they were in high spirits again, laughing a good 


deal, holding hands between courses, sipping from each other's tall frosted bright- 
colored tropical drinks. Jesus I'm crazy about that woman* her mother's new 
husband told the girl when her mother was in the powder room, Your mother is a 
high-class lady, he said. 5 He shifted his cane chair closer, leaned moist and warm, 
meaty, against her, an arm across her shoulders. There's nobody in the world 
precious to me as that lady, I want you to know that, he said, 6 and the girl said Yes 
I know it, 7 and her mother's new husband said in a fierce voice close to tears, Damn 
right, sweetheart, you know it. s 

'indirect speech; 2 free indirect speech; 3 free direct speech; 4_8 direct speech 

A variant of free indirect speech, illustrated in 2 above, is to retain the reporting clause, 
together with the features enumerated above. Here is an instance from Mrs Dalloway: 

And she opened her scissors, and said, did ] he 2 mind her 3 just finishing what she 4 
was doing 5 to her dress, for they 6 had 7 a party that night?* 

'direct interrogative + past form; 2 " 4 - 'pronominal shifts; 5_7 tense shifts; temporal 
deictic shift 


In the following passage from Lightning in May, John suspects for the first time that his 
wife may have tuberculosis. His reaction is expressed partly in direct speech introducd 
by verbs of manner (italicised) and partly in free indirect thought (underlined). By means 
of the latter, the writer or oral storyteller aims to represent the thoughts of a character. 
No reporting verb is used; indeed, there is no overt signal that the character's, rather 
than the author's, view or thought is being portrayed. What alerts us to the change of 
perspective is some 'perspective-changing' detail in the immediately preceding narrative 
- in this case 'he opened the handkerchief and 'he looked at her': 

'Ruth,' he breathed, 'how long have you had this cough?' He stood up and she 
followed. He opened the handkerchief again. There was no mistake . Silently he 
cursed himself. He saw her now in a completely different light . 'How long?' he 

He looked at her then held her to him. It became bluntly clear to him now. The 
pale, tired face that was thinner; the droop of her body. All the symptoms that he 
had put down to her mental state had matured into a physical one. And now a cough. 
How could he have been so stupid? Yet he had to make sure . 


'Ruthy,' he whispered. 'Let's get back to the surgery. I want Dr. Jenkins to see 

'What is it, John?' she queried. 

(Gordon Parker, Lightning in May) 


Coordination and subordination Quirk et al. (1985), Biber et al. (1999); on expansion, 
elaboration, extension, enhancement, projection, internal and external conjunction, 
Halliday (1994); on non-restrictive relative clauses: Huddleston and Pullum (2002), 
Bache and Jakobsen (1980); on circumstantial (adverbial) clauses, degrees of event 
integration and dependency, Givon (2001b), Matthiessen and Thompson (1988); on 
epistemic parentheticals, Thompson (2002), Karkkainen (2003); Pragmatic (internal) 
connectives, van Dijk (1979), Matras (1997), Stenstrom (1998), Smith and Jucker (2000). 


Expanding the message: Clause combinations 

Modules 31 and 32 

1 Gather a number of advertisements, with short texts and a headline or title, and compare 
them for the amount of clausal and non-clausal material they use. Identify the types of unit 
used - a single clause, a combination of clauses, a nominal group, a word, etc. - relating 
them to a picture if there is one. Draw up a chart showing the range of units used and the 
distribution of these units between the headline and the short text. Next, sort them with 
regard to the product or service advertised (e.g. automobiles, cosmetics, insurance 
companies, foodstuffs, holiday packages). Do you find any significant differences according 
to these or other factors, such as the amount of space the advert covers? 

2 tAnalyse the following news item in terms of its sequencing of coordination and 
subordination. Does the sequencing follow the chronological order of the real events? 

After hundreds of shrimps came gushing out of taps in Warrington, Cheshire, 
yesterday, householders collected teapots full of the creatures and were forced to 
filter the water before they could drink it. 

3 tin each of the following clause combinations, say which consist of clauses in a relationship 
of equivalence and which hold a relationship of non-equivalence: 


(1) To advertise in the Homes and Gardens section, please contact one of our sales teams 
for further information. 

(2) 'Clean your arteries - it could save your life.' 

(3) Heart disease is the UK's number one killer - and one of the main causes is clogged 

(4) Scottish children receive the most pocket money in the UK, while those in East Anglia 
receive the least. 

(5) The ginkgo tree once flourished around the world but survived the last Ice Age only 
in remote eastern China. 

Module 33 

1 Using (i) punctuation signals and (ii) the clarifying connectives listed in 33.1 .1 , add further 
clauses to the following examples so as to make complex sentences which stand in an 
apposifive relationship to each other: 

(1 ) with restating meanings [or rather, that is to say, in other words, namely, i.e.) 

(a) For ten days she ate nothing but yoghurt 

(b) At three in the morning the party was over 

(c) The bar is open only to members of the club 

(2) with exemplifying meanings (for example, for instance) 

(a) It's not clear how much she understands 

(b) There are a hundred things you could do to get fit 

(c) He's no good at mending things 

(3) with upgrading meanings [in fact, indeed, actually) 

(a) The week started badly 

(b) She looks marvellous in a sari 

(c) I was beginning to feel most embarrassed 

2 tTaking the clause as antecedent, add (i) finite and (ii) non-finite, non-restrictive relative 
clauses to each of the following primary clauses, so as to form complex sentences: 

(1) She blamed herself for the accident 

(2) Most party members were disheartened by the congress 

(3) A high-rise building collapsed in Ankara yesterday 

(4) Certain parts of the Pacific are notorious for typhoons 

(5) Several hostages were released by the plane hijackers today 

Module 34 

1 Using the conjunctions and connectives associated with coordination + extension, add a 
conjoined clause to the following examples: 

(1) A man carrying a new strain of AIDS virus has left the country 

(2) The job was quite attractive 


(3) Adventurous children like sleeping in caravans 

(4) Either you buy yourself a mobile phone 

(5) The dress suits you very well 

2 |We have in this chapter seen three meanings of but. One is adversative, in which case 
it is interchangeable with one use of yet as in It's a very simple device but/ yet it's very 
effective. Another is replacive, with the meaning except for or instead as in He didn't stay 
even an hour, but returned to London on the next train. The third meaning is concessive, 
corresponding to the subordinator (aljthough as in The story is certainly strange, but it's 
not entirely unbelievable. 

Decide which of these three meanings corresponds to but in each of the complex 
sentences below, and replace it by an appropriate connective, adding a pronoun when 

(1) The city may be prosperous, but to claim that it is a tourist attraction is absurd. 

(2) Zoo officials are trying to find new homes for the animals, but it is difficult to re-house 

(3) A degree in engineering should open many doors, but without business expertise 
many graduate engineers have difficulty in finding a job. 

(4) Lome originally thought of doing social biology and chemistry, but has changed to 
the new BSc in Industrial and Business Systems. 

(5) He almost decided to work on an oil-rig, but turned down the offer at the last minute. 

3 Using the conjunctive prepositions besides, as well as, except that, but for the fact that and 
without, add clauses to the following examples. Identify the resulting meaning: 

(1) Gillian buys all her clothes in boutiques 

(2) The trip would have been most enjoyable 

(3) The singer has filed a lawsuit against her video company 

(4) It might have been a good idea to wait a little while 

(5) We sat there in silence 

Module 35 

1 Discuss the status of the combination of and and or with circumstantial elements such as 
then, there, so, in that way, consequently, as a result, otherwise. Are they coordinators or 

2 Using these items, add further clauses to the following examples: 

(1) I opened the door 

(2) The new law came into force a year later 

(3) The milk is sure to have turned sour by now 

(4) Don't forget to put a stamp on your letters 

(5) We left the casserole too long in the microwave 


3 tSay which of the following uses of conjunctions are pragmatic (internal) rather than entirely 
semantic (external). Give an explanation if pragmatic: 

(1) If you don't mind my saying so, your hair looks much nicer short than long. 

(2) Did you see King Lear when it was on on the television? 'Cos I taped that as well. 

[BNC KDM 3696-3697] 

(3) I'll lend it to you if you lend me your video of Hamlet. 

(4) Many birds lose the power of flight, for there are no longer predators to make it 
worthwhile. [BNC AMS 1356] 

(5) Since there is no means of changing the weather, there is no question of protest. 

[BNC AN 42791] 

(6) I've only seen Shirley once since she and her husband went to live in New York. 

(7) When you gonna find your way up around my way? Buf you know I've been terribly 
busy lately! Yeah [BNC KBO 2468-2470] 

4 tAnalyse the following paragraph from Newsweek from the point of view of coordinating 
and subordinating enhancement: 

You can blow up a balloon so far, and then it bursts; 1 you can stretch a rubber band 
so far, and then it snaps; 2 you can bend a stick so far, and then it breaks. 3 How 
much longer can the human population go on damaging the world's natural systems 
before they break down altogether? 4 

5 Check the list of subordinators and their meanings in Section 35.2.1 . Use as many of these 
items as possible to add subordinate clauses in either initial or final position, in relation to 
the main clauses below. Here are a few suggested meanings: 

(1) We'll have to leave very early (purpose, open condition, negative condition, time- 

(2) I had to leave what I was doing and rush upstairs (reason, purpose, time-eventive) 

(3) I would like to speak to you about the new time-table (time-potential) 

(4) The film is certainly watchable (concession, condition-rhetorical) 

6 tAnalyse the following news item 'A Robot for Granny' from The Week in terms of complex 
sentences. Comment on the relative integration of the subordinate clauses and how their 
position affects their function: 

The Japanese are too hard-working these days to take care of elderly relatives - and 
so scientists have invented a robot to do the job for them, we discovered this 
February. 1 The Wakamaru robot trundles around the house, keeping an electronic 
'eye' out for trouble. 2 If the owner falls, it will send an alarm call to a friend or 


relative; 3 it can recognise faces and will contact a security firm if a stranger enters 
the house. 4 It can be programmed to ask: 'Are you all right?' 5 If there is no reply, 
the robot will take action. 6 

Module 36 

1 |Give one or more possible reported forms for each of the following statements and 
questions taken from The Complete Yes Prime Minister. Replace say and ask by verbs with 
connotative meanings: 

(1) 'I'm sorry to interrupt you in this vital discussion,' said Annie. 

(2) 'What exactly is your job?' I said to the EEC official. 

(3) 'Minister! You realise the press will be printing something that isn't true?' 
'Really?' I smiled at him. 'How frightful!' 

(4) 'But what about Duncan?' Annie asked. 'You'd recommend him?' 
'No.' Desmond was unequivocal. 

(5) 'I mean, Prime Minister . . . you . . . you - lied,' said Humphrey. 

2 |Give a possible reported form for each of the following quoted directives taken from the 
same script: 

(1) 'Won't you sit down for a minute?' Annie said to the official. 

(2) 'Why don't you wear a sports jacket?' Fiona said to Godfrey. 

(3) 'Suppose I sort of put on my glasses and take them off while I give my speech,' said 
the Prime Minister. 

(4) 'My God,' croaked Luke, a broken man, 'You can't send me to Israel. What about 
my career?' 

(5) 'Don't be silly,' I replied briskly, 'It's an honour. Promotion.' 

4 Using information you have learned throughout this chapter, analyse the following extract 
from Pat Rushin's story Speed of Light from the point of view of clausal and non-clausal 
material and of complex sentence. Identify types of reporting. 

Things go wrong. 

Take Constantine Muzhikovsky. He had everything going for him. Good law 
practice. Nice secluded house on the outskirts. Sweet little vegetable garden out back 
that brought him no end of pleasure come springtime. Handsome, devoted wife. Kids 
grown and gone. The way Muzhikovsky saw things, it was time to ease off and enjoy 
a tranquil, orderly life. 

Then zap. 

One night while they lay in bed watching Johnny Carson, Muzhikovsky' s wife 
told him it was over. Johnny's last guest, a religious nut plugging a book, ranted on. 


'Did you hear me?' Muzhikovsky's wife said. 

'Yes/ Muzhikovsky said. He stared at the glowing TV. 'What,' he said. 

A blind man could see it, Johnny's guest assured him. The signs, the portents: all 
heralding the impending arrival of the blazing glory of our Lord and Saviour, you 
bet. Johnny nodded sagely; then, when his guest wasn't looking, dropped his jaw, 
mugged dopey credulity. 

The audience roared. 

'I said I want a divorce.' 



The Verbal Group 

Module 37: Expressing our experience of events 317 

37.1 Syntactic elements of structure of the Verbal Group 317 

37.2 Realisations of the elements: lexical verbs and auxiliaries 318 

37.3 Types of lexical auxiliary 319 

37.3.1 Be + lexical item + to-infinitive 319 

37.3.2 Have or Have got + to-infinitive 320 

37.3.3 Modal idioms: had better, would rather 320 

37.4 'Raised' subjects 321 

37.5 Syntactic features of the operator element 321 

Module 38: Basic structures of the Verbal Group 323 

38.1 Experiential structure of the Verbal Group 323 

38.2 Simple structures of the Verbal Group 324 

38.3 Extended structures of the Verbal Group 325 

38.4 Structures with one auxiliary: o v 325 

38.5 Structures with two grammatical auxiliaries: o x v 326 

38.6 Structures with three grammatical auxiliaries: o x x v 327 

38.7 Telescoped order of elements of the Verbal Group 328 

38.8 Extended non-finite structures 328 

38.9 Relative frequency of complex Verbal Groups 329 

38.10 Discontinuous Verbal Groups 329 

Module 39: Organising our experience of events 331 

39.1 Sequencing and phasing events 331 

39.2 Types of phase 333 

39.2.1 The phase of initiation 333 

39.2.2 The phase of continuation 333 

39.2.3 The phase of termination 334 

39.2.4 The phase of appearing or becoming real 334 

39.2.5 The phase of attempting, succeeding, failing, helping 334 

39.2.6 The phase of manner or attitude 334 

39.2.7 The phase of chance and tendency 335 

Module 40: The semantics of phrasal verbs 336 

40.1 Phrasal verbs 336 
40.1.1 Semantic cohesiveness and idiomaticity 337 

40.2 Non-idiomatic phrasal verbs: free combinations 337 

40.2.1 The Motion Event: Figure, Ground, Path and Manner 337 

40.2.2 Translating Motion, Manner and Path combinations 339 

40.2.3 Substituting Manner and Path elements 340 

40.3 Basic meanings of a particle: back 340 

40.4 Semi-idiomatic phrasal verbs 341 

40.5 Fully idiomatic phrasal verbs 342 

Further reading 343 

Exercises 343 




1 Verbal Groups (VG) encode our experience of events. The term 'event' is used 
here in representation of all types of process, including events, states and 

2 The VG consists of a lexical verb (v), either alone (fakes) or preceded by one 
or more auxiliaries [is taking/has been taken). The first auxiliary, the operator, 
has a special status and is distinguished by certain syntactic features. 

3 The operator is of the utmost importance in English as it carries the four 'NICE' 
functions of Negation, Inversion, Code (substitution) and Emphasis. It is realised 
by various types of auxiliary: primary, modal and lexical auxiliaries, which help 
to build up the symbolic representation of the event and carry a wide range of 
modal and aspectual meanings. 

4 Certain of the lexical auxiliaries (e.g. be bound to) have 'raised' Subjects. 


The Verbal Group is the grammatical unit by means of which we most typically express 
our perception of events. 'Event' will be used in this chapter to cover all types of process, 
whether events, activities, states or acts of consciousness. These are described from the 
point of view of their place in the semantics of the clause in Chapter 4. 

The VG consists of a lexical verb (e.g. take) or a primary verb (a form of be, have or 
do) as main verb (v), either alone or preceded by one or more grammatical elements - 
the auxiliaries (x) as in has been and has taken. The lexical and grammatical elements 
are all integral parts of an analytical form. The first auxiliary has a special status and is 
usually called the 'operator' (o) (see 3.1.1), for reasons which are explained in section 
37.5. The constituent elements of the English VG can therefore be represented and 
exemplified as in the diagram. 

v waited 

o v is waiting 

o x v have been waiting 

o x x v will have been waiting 

I waited an hour 

Everyone is waiting 

He has been waiting an hour 

He will have been waiting an hour 



The elements of the VG are realised by the following classes and forms of verbs: 

lexical verbs: wait, come, rain, bring, etc. 

primary verbs: be, am, is, are, was, were, being, been, have, has, had, having; do, 

does, did 

modal auxiliaries: shall, should, will, would, can, could, may, might, must, ought to 

semi-modals: need, dare, used to (modals in certain uses) 

lexical auxiliaries: 

(1) be able to, be about to, be apt to, be bound to, be due to, be going to, be liable 
to, be likely to, be certain to, be sure to, be to, be unlikely to, be supposed to 

(2) have to, have got to 

(3) had better, would rather, would sooner 

The primary and modal verbs are limited in number, as this list shows, and form closed 
sets. Lexical verbs, the v or main element, constitute an open set; new ones can be 
coined and added to the lexicon at any time. 

The primary verbs carry grammatical meaning (tense, aspect, person, number), the 
modal auxiliaries express modal meanings (obligation, possibility, probability, necessity) 
(see Module 44) rather than lexical or grammatical meaning. On the other hand, the 
lexical element of the VG expresses both lexical meaning and grammatical meaning. 

The primary verbs be, have, do can function both as auxiliary and as lexical elements 
of the VG (with the exception of doing and done, which function only as lexical elements). 
The syntactic function determines the type of meaning expressed, whether grammatical 
or lexical, as shown here. 

Functioning as auxiliary 

Functioning as lexical (main) verb 

Elections are approaching. 
We didn't do anything about it. 
He has had nothing to eat. 

Elections are imminent. 
We did everything. 
He had nothing to eat. 


In addition to its function as a main verb, be therefore has three auxiliary functions: 
as an aspect auxiliary in the progressive: is taking; as a passive auxiliary: is taken (38.4); 
and as the basis of the lexical auxiliaries that take be. 


Lexical auxiliary is the term used for a set of verbs of modal or aspectual mean- 
ing which form chain-like structures with the main verb of the VG. The majority are 
followed by a V-fo-inf form, but a few take the infinitive without to. They can be divided 
into three types according to whether their first word is (1) be; (2) have; (3) a modal 

As with other fo-infinitive uses (see 12.2), the lexical auxiliaries tend to point to 
a future event, though not invariably so. They express subjective estimations by the 
speaker as to the imminence of the event, the certainty, probability or usualness of the 
event taking place, or the speaker's duty or ability (based on knowledge or skill) to do 
something. Some of these auxiliaries have undergone semantic change, so they are not 
what they seem at first sight. (See 41.6 for more on future time.) 

37.3.1 Be + Lexical item + fo-infinitive 

Be + lexical item + V-to-inf 

be going to 

be about to 
be due to 

be to 

We're going to need more staff 

The plane is about to take off. 
He's due to arrive at any moment. 

As a young girl, she little knew 

she was to marry the heir to the 

be bound to There's bound to be some cheese " 

in the fridge, 
be certain to She is certain to resign, 
be sure to He's sure to be waiting outside, 

be likely to They're likely to win by several 

be apt to He's apt to ask awkward 

be liable to This machine is liable to break 

be supposed to We're not supposed to smoke in 

be able to I am not able to guarantee the 



(prediction based on 

(imminence of event) 
(expectation of scheduled 

(planned event or destiny) 

(confident anticipation) 

(tendency or usualness) 

(duty, general belief) 
(ability, possibility) 

Note that a few of the lexical words in this list can also function as adjectives: an able 
mechanic; an apt quotation; a certain/ sure winner; the likely winner of the elections. 


37.3.2 Have or Have got + fo-infinitive 

Have and have got + V-fo-inf 

have to I have to finish these letters. 

There has to be a solution. 

have got to I've got to go now. Oh, do you have to? 

There's got to be a solution. 




Like must, these combinations have meanings of both obligation and necessity (see 44.5). 
In type 3, had better has the meaning of advisability and would rather/would sooner 
indicate preference. 

The Subject-Finite operator inversion characteristic of be, have and other auxiliaries 
in interrogative and negative clauses is explained in Module 23, together with the require- 
ment of a do operator by lexical verbs. As a reminder here, we exemplify have to and 
have got to in interrogative clauses, showing that while have to can function either as a 
primary auxiliary or as a lexical verb, have got to functions only as an auxiliary: 

Have to 


Negative declarative 

Have got to 


Negative declarative 


Have you to go? 


Have you got to go? 
Haven't you got to go? 
You haven't got to go. 

Lexical verb 

Do you have to go? Don't you 

have to go? 
You don't have to go. 

Furthermore, have got + to-infinitive has no non-finite forms and does not combine with 
modals. None of the following structures are possible, therefore, all being used with 
have to: 

*To have got to live there must be 

*I don't like having got to get up 

*We have had got to repaint the 

*You will have got to watch out for You will have to watch out for 

mosquitoes there. 

To have to live there . . . 

/ don't like having to get up early. 

We have had to repaint . . . 

37.3.3 Modal idioms: had better, would rather 

Modal idioms with had and 
would + V-inf 

had better You had better come back tomorrow, 

would rather I would rather stay here with you. 
would sooner 1 would sooner pay in advance. 


(I advise you to . . 
(I would prefer to . 
(I would prefer to . 



You may have noticed that in clauses such as They are likely to win, the NG at Subject 
does not appear to be the logical Subject of the Complement likely to win. In fact, the 
likelihood refers not to the subject they, but to the situation of winning. Syntactically, 
then, the NG (they) is the logical subject of a clause embedded at subject, as in (a) below 
(that they will win), which is then extraposed, as in (b). Finally the subject of the sub- 
ordinate clause is raised to become subject of the main clause, as in (c): 

(a) That they will win is likely 

(b) It is likely that they will win 
(c) They are likely to win. 

This is known as subject-to-subject raising (see also section 30.5.1). Likely is used 
a great deal in this construction, perhaps because its apparent synonym probable does 
not admit raising (*He is probable to win). Other lexical auxiliaries that are the result of 
raising are be certain to, sure to and supposed to. 

Object-to-subject raising occurs when a NG Object of a clause embedded at 
subject (them in (a) below) is extraposed as in (b) and then is raised to subject of the 
main clause, as in (c): 

(a) To find them is hard 

(b) It is hard to find them 
(c) They are hard to find 

Raised subjects have the advantage of referring to persons or things by names, nouns 
or pronouns in a clause that is shorter and simpler than the corresponding that-cleaise 
or extraposed structures. They also provide a different Theme and Topic (28.4). 


Any of the primary verbs or the modal auxiliaries can stand in initial position and so 
function as operator in a VG. 

The operator element has four major distinctive properties which are not shared 
by lexical verbs. They carry the 'operations' in what have been called the NICE 
constructions: Negation, Inversion, Code and Emphasis. Compare: 

operation operator aux. lexical vb 

1 Negation: contraction with I don't eat meat *I eatn't . . . 

neg. particle 

2 Inversion with S in Will you sign? *Sign you? 


3 'Code', that is, substitute 

for the Predicator and 
predicate in a clause 
(cf. 29.5) 

4 Emphasis (by tonic stress) Yes, I will go 

I'll go, if Ed will I want to go if you do 
(if you *want) 

I do want to go 


Four more features also distinguish the operator from a lexical verb: 


Position of frequency 

adverb: follows operator 

but precedes lexical verb 
Postposition of quantifiers 

all and both 
Verbal element in a tag 

Independence of subject 

operator aux. 
I can always go 

They have all/ 

both gone 
You will come, 

won 't you? 
Ed will teach the 

The juniors will 

be taught by 


lexical vb 

I always want to go 

*I want always to go 

*They went all/ both 
They all/ both went 
. . . *comen't you? 

Ed expects to teach the 

The juniors expect 

to be taught by Ted 

With verbs which have the active-passive contrast, operators usually show no change 
of meaning, whereas with some finite lexical verbs (e.g. expect) there is a change of 





1 The experiential structure of the VG consists of Finite + Event + auxiliaries. The 
Finite expresses tense, person, number and modality (the latter when realised 
by a modal auxiliary). These relate the verbal process to the 'speaker-now' 
and establish the Verbal Group in relation to the speech exchange. The Event 
expresses lexical meaning, which provides the representational content. Finite 
and Event are fused in e.g. runs, asked; was, has (as primary auxiliaries). 

2 Verbal Groups can be marked for tense or modality but not both. 

3 Verbal Group structures can be simple, consisting of one element only [runs, 
asked), or extended, consisting of one or more auxiliaries + a main verb (may 
have been running). 

4 Up to four auxiliaries can occur, or five if a lexical auxiliary is included. 

5 The meanings expressed by the auxiliaries are: modal, perfect, progres- 
sive, passive, in this order. The structures which realise these meanings are 
telescoped in the VG. 

6 The longer combinations are more frequent in spoken than in written English. 

7 Non-finite VGs (having been seen) can express perfect, progressive and passive 
meanings, but not tense or modality. 

8 Verbal Groups are discontinuous in English when the sequence of elements 
is interrupted by other clause elements or by intensifiers. 


In finite clauses the experiential structure of the Verbal Group is Finite + Event. The 
Finite carries tense, number and, to a limited extent, person. A modal auxiliary provides 
an alternative to a tensed auxiliary, for instance is going /may go. A tensed form and a 


modal auxiliary do not occur together: *is may go. In one-word VGs, such as takes, has 
(she has long hair), the finiteness is realised on the lexical verb. In longer sequences the 
Finite is realised by an operator and may be followed by one or more auxiliaries: It has 
been snowing all day. 

There is a parallelism between the Nominal Group and the Verbal Group as regards 
their respective experiential structures. Both begin with an element which relates them 
to the 'speaker-now' of the speech situation. The NG does this by means of the deictic, 
or 'pointing' element, such as 'this' in this house, the VG by means of the operator, which 
carries tense, modality and person (is waiting/vrill wait), or the lexical verb alone (waits). 
The Verbal Group ends with the Event, which corresponds to the Entity in the Nominal 
Group, and provides the representational content. Both Event and Entity represent the 
nucleus of the lexical meaning. 


A simple Verbal Group structure consists of a single element, usually the lexical element, 
realised by a finite or non-finite form of a lexical verb, for example drive: 

Finite forms 

drive (pres. indie.) They drive on the left in the UK. 

drives (pres. indie.) He drives to work every day. 

drove (past indie.) He drove out of the garage. 

Non-finite forms 

(to) drive (inf.) It's important to drive with care. 

bare infinitive They won't let you drive without a licence. 

driving (pres. part.) Driving to work this morning, I heard the 9 o'clock news. 

driven (past part.) Driven away by night, the car was then abandoned. 

Simple VG structures are illustrated in the passage below: 

Rivers perhaps are the only physical feature of the world that appear at their best 
from the air. Mountain ranges, no longer seen in profile, dwarf to anthills; seas lose 
their horizons; lakes have no longer depth but look like bright pennies on the earth's 
surface; forests become a thin impermanent film, a mass on the top of a wet stone, 
easily rubbed off. But rivers, which from the ground one usually sees in cross sections, 
like a small sample of ribbon - rivers stretch out serenely ahead as far as the eye 

(A. M. Lindbergh, North to the Orient) 








has gone 


is going 


will go 


doesn't go 


does go 



An 'extended' Verbal Group structure consists of a lexical verb at the head, preceded 
by up to four auxiliaries, or five if we include the lexical auxiliaries. The order in which 
the auxiliaries occur is fixed and depends upon the grammatical meanings they convey. 
The features of grammatical meaning which can be expressed in an extended VG 
comprise the following pairs, marked and unmarked, respectively, in 3rd person singular: 

tense past, present 

finiteness non-finite, finite 

anteriority perfect, non-perfect 

aspect progressive, non-progressive 

modality modal, non-modal 

polarity negative, positive 

emphasis contrastive, non-contrastive 

These major features of grammatical meaning represent sets of options between which 
speakers choose every time they combine elements to form a Verbal Group. The basic 
or unmarked options are: the present, finite, non-perfect, non-progressive, non-modal, 
positive, non-contrastive. Taking a 3rd person form of go, goes is the unmarked option 
in each case. 

The auxiliaries serve to build up the meanings expressed by the modal, perfect, 
progressive and passive combinations, operating not in isolation but each telescoping 
with the next, as is explained below. The meanings of these and the other pairs are 
described in this and subsequent chapters. In the following examples, we let has and is 
stand for any form of have and be, must for any of the modal auxiliaries and be about 
to for the set of lexical auxiliaries. 


In the finite VG with only one auxiliary, this auxiliary is necessarily the operator and, 
according to its type, selects a corresponding form of the lexical verb. The o v structure 
can express the following features of grammatical meaning, in addition to the obligatory 
choices of tense, finiteness, polarity and contrastiveness: 





1 modal 

modal aux.-i- V-inf 

must drive 


2 perfect 

have + V-en 

has driven 


3 progressive 

be + V-ing 

is driving 


4 passive 

be + V-en 

is driven 

With a lexical auxiliary: 

5 be + about to + V-inf is about to drive 


The four basic combinations also combine with each other to make up more complex 
Verbal Groups, all of which function as one VG at Finite + Predicator in clause structure. 
The features modal, perfect, progressive, passive occur in ordered combinations, 
like the letters of the alphabet ABCD. Thus, for instance, B can follow A, or D can follow 
C, but not vice versa. A certain feature may be omitted, as in ACD, BD. Lexical auxiliaries 
can occur with any combination, as illustrated in the next section. 

The grammatical meanings listed above, which are realised by one auxiliary (the 
operator) + the lexical verb, are illustrated in the following passage. Forms of be occur 
as main verb, there is one main verb fell and also one 'phased' VG (see 39.2.7): 

One day, as you are washing^ your hands, you happen to glance 2 into the mirror 
over the basin and a sudden doubt will flash 3 across your mind: 'Is 4 that really me?' 
'What am I doing 5 here?' 'Who am 6 1?' Each one of us is so completely cutoff from 
everyone else. How do you know* you are reading'' a book? The whole thing may 
be 10 an illusion. How do you know 11 that red is 12 red? The colour could appear u 
blue in everyone else's eyes. A similar doubt, differently expressed, is u inherent in 
the well-known question: 'A tree that has fa/fen 15 in the forest, far from the nearest 
man - when it fe//, 16 did it make w any noise?' 

(Magnus Pike, The Boundaries of Science) 

Be as main verb: 4 , 6 , ,2 , ,4 . Be as aux. progressive: ', ', '. Be as aux. passive: 7 . 
Hove as aux. perfect: ,5 . Do as aux. present: 8 , ". Do as aux. past: ,7 . Modal aux: 
3 , ,0 , ,3 . Phased VG with catenative happen to: 2 . 

This text illustrates the options listed as ABCD choices. It must be remembered, 
however, that all finite Verbal Groups also select obligatorily for tense, polarity and 
contrastiveness. This means that a full description of any one VG realisation would have 
to specify all these choices, as can be exemplified by 1 are washing: finite, present, 
positive, non-contrastive, non-modal, + progressive, non-perfect, non-passive. 


6 modal + perfect must have driven 

7 modal + progressive must be driving 

8 modal + passive must be driven 

9 perfect + progressive has been driving 

10 perfect + passive has been driven 

In combination with a lexical auxiliary: 

1 1 modal + lexical-aux must be about to drive 

12 perfect + lexical-aux has been about to drive 


13 lexical-aux + progressive is about to be driving 

14 lexical-aux + passive is about to be driven 

Structures with two auxiliaries occur widely in both spoken and written English. The 
following extract is adapted from a report about problems facing language-school 
students when they come to the UK to study English: 

It must be realised^ that many students will be going 2 abroad for the first time and 
may well be likely to feel 3 anxious about the kind of reception they will be given," 
about the kind of work they are about to have to do 5 or about the host family to 
which they happen to have been assigned.'' Many of these worries can easily be 
allayed 7 by giving them as much information as possible beforehand. In the past, 
some students have been apt to complain* that they have had to face'' certain 
difficulties in the first weeks owing to lack of sufficient information. 

'modal + passive; 2 modal + progressive; 3 modal + lexical-aux; "modal + passive; 
5 lexical-aux + lexical-aux; 6 catenative (happen to) + perfect + passive; 7 modal + 
passive; 8 perfect + lexical-aux; 'perfect + lexical-aux 


15 modal + perfect + progressive must have been driving 

16 modal + perfect + passive must have been driven 

17 modal + progessive + passive must be being driven 

18 perfect + progressive + passive has been being driven 

Verbal groups of three grammatical auxiliaries are more common in speech than in 
writing. With a modal or a lexical auxiliary, complex forms easily occur in spoken 
English, as in the following examples: 

. . . and (they) think the killer could be being protected locally [bnc kie 23370] 

The matter could and should have been dealtvrith as set out above [bnc fd6 2851] 

Groups with the two forms been being are uncommon, but they can occur if they are 

With a lexical auxiliary added there are now four auxiliaries: 

19 modal + perfect + lexical-aux must have been about to drive 

20 modal + lex.-aux + progressive must be about to be driving 

21 modal + lex.-aux + passive must be about to be driven 

22 perfect + lex.-aux + progressive has been about to be driving 

23 perfect + lex.-aux + passive has been about to be driven 

24 progressive + lex.-aux + passive is about to be being driven 


Then his application would have to have been made to the Commission by March. 

[BNC FBK 14.655] 

We will go no further with the structure of the finite extended VG, as no examples of 
five auxiliaries have been found in a large corpus. In principle, however, there is no 
grammatical constraint on their composition and the telescoped order of elements 
allows for their use if the context requires them. 


It is important to note that each semantico-syntactic feature of a complex VG (tense 
and modality, perfect, progressive and passive) is expressed, not by one element only, 
but by each element telescoping into the following one: 

modality: must + V-inf 

perfect: have + V-en 

progressive: been + V-ing 

passive: being + V-en 

main verb: driven 

= Verbal Group: must have been being driven 
(4 grammatical auxiliaries) 

With respect to the other auxiliaries, lexical auxiliaries have a relatively free ordering, 
the basic requirement being that they are followed by an infinitive. This blocks such 
combinations as *is likely to can drive and *is bound to must drive. However the meaning 
of must can be expressed by the lexical auxiliary have + to-infinitive, and of can by be 
able to, giving the acceptable combinations is likely to be able to drive and is bound to have 
to drive, as illustrated in the following spoken example: 

If pain and other symptoms were being so badly managed these patients should 
have been referred promptly to other health care professionals who might have been 
able to provide a better quality of analgesia. [bnc ft2 31.588] 

Note that, as we mentioned in Module 37, forms of be participate in extended structures 
in various ways: as auxiliary of the progressive (is taking); as auxiliary of the passive 
(is taken); and in a lexical auxiliary combination (is bound to). These can be telescoped 
successively as in: is being taken (prog. + passive), is bound to be taken (lex. aux + passive). 


Non-finite VGs do not possess the full set of sequences that we find in finite groups 
because they do not express the grammatical meanings of tense, mood or modality. 


The perfect, progressive and passive meanings can, however, be expressed in the 
non-finite VG, giving the following possible combinations (the bracketed form is not 

Infinitive structures Participle structures 

25 to have driven having driven 

26 to have been driving having been driving 

27 to have been driven having been driven 

28 to be driving (being driving) 

29 to be driven being driven 

Lexical auxiliaries can of course also be incorporated into non-finite structures, making 
for even longer combinations, which can be produced spontaneously when they are 
needed, as in the example: 

Having been about to be operated on more than once, his operation was nevertheless 
postponed on each occasion. 

With an appropriate lexical verb and an appropriate context, such as someone who 
is teaching needing extended time to complete an essay on a course she is following, 
the participial sequence of being + V-ing is acceptable, as in the following example from 
Michael Halliday: 

You might get an extension on the grounds of being teaching. 


It must be realised that extended VG structures have developed and become acceptable 
over time, and that this process has not yet been completed. Even short progressive + 
passive combinations such as are being killed were avoided by writers before the second 
half of the nineteenth century. (Macaulay is said to have written 'Good soldiers are killing 
. . .' because he could not bring himself to write 'are being killed'.) There is still a similar 
reluctance to use the longer forms such as might have been being killed. The language's 
resources, nevertheless, can generate them so that they are at the user's disposal when 
they are needed. The reason that longer VGs occur more frequently in spoken English 
than in written lies partly in the on-line nature of spontaneous speech and the kind 
of meanings conveyed by the VG. Such meanings are related not simply to an objective 
point of time at which an event occurred, but also more subjectively and spontaneously, 
to evaluations, speculations and predictions made by the speaker as to what may happen 
in the future or to what could, should or might have happened in the past. 


The sequence of elements in VGs is often interrupted by other clause elements, such 
as subject, adjunct and intensifiers as in has not yet been completed. Such interruptions 


can be seen in the following exchange, in which A asks B about her father, who is a wine 

A. Did he import 1 from any particular place in France, or all over? 

B. Well, he used to sort of be 2 forever going 3 to Bordeaux, so I assumed from that that 
that was his main connection. 

(adapted from J. Svartvik and R. Quirk, A Corpus of English Conversation) 


interrupted by Subject; interrupted by intensifier; interrupted by Adjunct 

As well as in interrogative structures, separation of the VG by the subject is produced 
in certain types of thematisation (Only then did he realise the harm he had done; Had 
we known your address, we would have got in touch with you). This is explained in 
section 28.10. 

Discontinuity of the VG is also produced by negative or semi-negative items (I would 
never have believed that of him; You can hardly expect them to wait all day). 




1 Verbal groups can be linked by coordination to express sequences of related 

2 VGs in a dependency relationship are described by the semantic notion of 
phase. They form chain-like sequences which symbolise a complex event 
consisting of two phases (fry to win, end up winning). 

3 The first VG in a phased structure is often a catenative [sfart, happen) and can 
express the aspectual meanings of initiation, continuation, attempt, manner and 

4 These catenatives are mid-way between lexical verbs and auxiliaries. They are 
not able to function as operators, and so require the cto-operator. 

5 The second VG is non-finite. The fo-infinitive points to a beginning or end-point 
of the second phase, (start to cry) while the -ing form implies its duration (start 

We now begin to examine some of the means used in English to express the internal 
nature or character of the event for which the verb is a linguistic symbol. 


Verbal groups can be joined, either by coordination or by dependency to express events 
which occur in sequence, or are 'phased', respectively. 

When linked by coordination, VGs are conjoined. They express two events with 
the same subject which occur in sequence and are semantically related (washed and 
dressed, but hardly washed and scolded). Just as with the conjoining of other types of 
grammatical unit, the VGs may be linked in three ways: by the linking words and, or and 
but, without any linking item; or by a combination of both when more than two events 
are related: 


She washed and dressed the child. 

Our last typist just left, disappeared without saying a word. 

He was born, lived and died in Bristol. 

In section 1 2. 1 we considered verbs which can set up a chain of non-finite complements 
as catenatives, and the non-finite clauses themselves as catenative complements. Here 
we look at a largely different set of verbal groups e.g. happened to see, keep on running, 
which can in many cases be interpreted semantically as one complex or phased process, 
realised by two VGs, the second dependent on the first. The first VG is a catenative, 
which may be finite (such as happened) or non-finite (such as having kept on). Unlike the 
lexical auxiliaries, these verbs cannot themselves be operators. Instead they take the do 
operator, as in Did he happen to see it? 

The second VG is always non-finite, the form of the verb being controlled by the first. 
The infinitive form, usually with to, as in it started to rain, tends to draw attention to 
the initial or terminative stage of the phased event. The participial -ing form, as in it 
started raining tends to suggest the durative nature of the second phase. The -en form in 
the ^-passive suggests termination, while get invokes partial responsibility, or bad luck/ 
good luck, for the action (see 30.3.5). Get can be used in the three types of phase: 

Initial: Let's get moving. 

Terminating: I got to know him well. 

Terminating + responsibility /bad luck: He got run over by a bus. 

Verbs which can function as the first verb in the phased verbal groups include the 

+ to-infinitive: appear to, chance to, come to, fail to, get to, happen to, help to, 

hesitate to, manage to, prove to, regret to, seem to, tend to, try to, turn out to, 

venture to 

+ -ing: keep (on), go on, carry on 

+ to-infinitive or -ing: begin, start, get, cease, stop 

get + V-en (the ge^-passive) 

help + to-infinitive or bare infinitive 

The non-finite forms are illustrated as follows: 

to-infinitive He tried to kill the snakes. 

-ing form He went on killing the snakes. 

to-inf./-ing He began to kill the snakes. 

7o-inf./bare inf. He helped kill/ to kill the snakes. 

He began killing the snakes. 
-en He got killed by a snake. 

These verbs have in common with the lexical auxiliaries the ability to form chained 
sequences of non-finite constructions as in Those pears don't seem to be getting eaten and 
He always seems to be certain to pass his driving test, but in the end he keeps on managing to 


fail. Although they require the do-operator, many of them satisfy the 'independence of 
the subject' criterion which is characteristic of auxiliaries and illustrated below (see also 
37.5). When used as catenatives, then, the following verbs are midway between 
auxiliaries and full lexical verbs: 

Phil fails to 

appears to 
happens to 

tends to 
ceased to 
came to 

recognise the implications. 

The implications 

appear to 
happen to 
fail to 
tend to 
ceased to 
came to 

be recognised by Phil. 


Verbal Group complexes of this kind are said to be 'phased', because the process 
expressed by the VGs is interpreted as being realised by a single subject in two or more 
phases. The types of phase are classified notionally here in terms of the meaning of the 
first verb. 

39.2.1 The phase of initiation 

Some verbs admit the aspectual contrast of initial/ terminative as opposed to durative 
in the second: 

It began to rain. It began raining. 
She started to cry. She started crying. 
Get moving! 

39.2.2 The phase of continuation 

Why do you keep on complaining? 

He went on to talk about his future plans. He went on talking for hours. 
It continued to snow for a week. It continued snowing for a week. 
Carry on working, please! 

There is a difference of meaning between go on + to inf. and go on + -ing. The infinitive 
form suggests movement to a different topic or activity, depending on the verb, while 
the -ing form encodes the continuation of the same activity. Compare: He went on 
(afterwards) to study Physics, and He went on (as usual) studying Physics. 


39.2.3 The phase of termination 

I have ceased to mind the harsh climate. I have ceased minding the constant 


He will end up resigning. 

Have the children finished eating? 

Can't you stop making such a noise? 

I got to know him well I got working on the essay and finished 

it before dinner-time, (phase of 


The use of stop with a following to-infinitive indicates the end of one process and the 
beginning of another, rather than one phased process. Syntactically, the to-infinitive is 
analysed as adjunct. Compare: 

He stopped to think. He stopped thinking. 

39.2.4 The phase of appearing or becoming real 

The sky seemed to get darker. The patient appears to be improving. 

The job proved to be quite unsuitable. 

The stranger turned out to be a neighbour after all. 

39.2.5 The phase of attempting, succeeding, failing, helping 

The verbs used with these meanings include try, attempt, manage, be able, fail, neglect, 
omit, learn, which are followed by the to-infinitive form of the subordinate verb. Again, 
this form often draws attention to the initiation or completion of the process: 

He tried to learn Arabic. 

We managed to find the key. 

We had arranged to meet at 9, but he failed to turn up. 

You must learn to relax. 

I attempted to explain but they wouldn't listen. 

She neglected to turn off 'the gas and there was an explosion. 

He helped feed the baby/ This herbal tea will help you to relax. (See also section 12.3.) 

39.2.6 The phase of manner or attitude 

The manner in which a person performs an action or an attitude of mind towards 
performing it are expressed by verbs such as regret, hesitate, hasten, pretend, decline, 
bother. All are followed by the to-infinitive form, except bother, which can also take an - 
ing form: 

I regret to inform you ... = inform with regret 

I hesitate to ask you this favour. = ask reluctantly 

They hastened to reassure her. = reassure immediately 

He's only pretending to be deaf. = acting as if deaf 


He declined to answer the question. = was not willing to answer 

I never bother to iron/ ironing sheets. = trouble myself to iron 

I happen to like her a lot, so shut up. = showing annoyance at something said 

39.2.7 The phase of chance and tendency 

An element of chance or usualness, in the performance of the action denoted by the 
second verb, is expressed by certain catenatives. Semantically, these verbs are similar 
to the lexical auxiliaries described in section 37.3, such as be apt to, be liable to, which 
express usualness. 

She happened to notice the number-plate. = noticed by chance 
I chanced to overhear their conversation. = heard by chance 
He tends to be nervous, doesn't he? = often is 

Two phased verbs are illustrated in the following news item from The Sunday Times 
of India: 

Project to save Pisa tower 

Workers have started removing soil from under the base of the leaning tower of 
Pisa, Italy, the second phase of a project meant to keep the monument from toppling 

The digging that started on Friday was carried out through 1 2 tubes, inserted to 
a depth of six metres to remove some soil. Experts hope the tower will then settle 
better into the ground and lean less. It now leans 6 degrees, four metres off the 

An illustration of the occurrence of complex and phased VGs (together with lexical 
auxiliaries and phrasal verbs) in spoken English is provided by the following short extract 
from a recorded conversation: 

Rachel: We got locked out 1 of the flat yesterday. 

Harry: How did you get back 2 in? 

Rachel: We had to borrow 3 a long ladder and climb up 4 to the first floor balcony. 

Harry: I thought that with the kind of security lock you've got, you're not supposed 

to be able to lock yourself out. 5 

Rachel: Thaf s true. But if you happen to bang 6 the door a bit too hard, it locks itself. 

Harry: If s better to have to lock 7 it from the outside. 

1 get-passive, phrasal verb; 2 phrasal verb; 3 lexical aux; "phrasal verb; 5 lexical aux. 
+ lexical-aux. + phrasal verb; 'phased VG; 7 lexical-aux 





1 Phrasal verbs consist of a lexical verb + an adverb-like particle [She walked 
out). The syntax of these verbs, as of other multi-word combinations, is described 
in Chapter 2. 

2 The function of many of the particles is to modify the nature of the activity 
expressed by the verb. The result is an extended meaning which is often quite 
different from the meaning(s) of the verb when it functions alone. 

3 The more transparent combinations combine the meaning of the verb and the 
particle, and these allow substitution (go out/run out/hurry out: go away/run 
away/ hurry away. 

4 In a Motion Event analysis the lexical verb in such combinations expresses 
Motion, while the particle expresses the Path taken by the moving Figure with 
respect to the Ground. 

5 The notions of Manner and also Cause are typically incorporated, together with 
Motion, in English verbs. 

6 Phrasal verb particles can also draw attention to the beginning or end of an 
activity, to its continuation, slow completion, increased or decreased intensity 
and many other meanings. 


No student of English can fail to notice that phrasal verbs are one of the most distinctive 
features of present-day informal English, both in their abundance and in their 
productivity. New combinations are constantly being coined. A phrasal verb is a 
combination of a lexical verb and an adverb-like particle such as run in, fly away, get off, 
walk back, drive past, come over. The syntactic behaviour of phrasal verbs is compared 
with that of prepositional verbs in Chapter 2. 


In this section we turn our attention to the combinations of meanings provided by 
the lexical verb together with its particle. We will try to show how the concept of Motion 
Event offers a cognitive explanation for these combinations in English that should help 
to dispel the opaqueness often ascribed to phrasal verbs. (We present here only a small 
part of what is a far-reaching model, which provides a typology of motion events across 

The function of many of the particles is to modify the nature of the activity expressed 
by the verb. The result is an extended meaning which is often different from the 
meaning(s) of the verb when it functions alone. 

40.1.1 Semantic cohesiveness and idiomaticity 

Phrasal verbs are semantically highly cohesive. The verb and particle function as a 
whole, and the more idiomatic combinations frequently have a unique, idiomatic 
meaning which is not merely the sum of the two parts. 

Other verb + particle combinations, however, present varying degrees of cohesive- 
ness and little or no idiomaticity. For practical purposes, the following three degrees 
will be recognised: non-idiomatic, semi-idiomatic and fully idiomatic. We shall 
deal with each type separately. 


The lexical verb and the adverbial particle each keep their own meaning, the sum of the 
meanings being one of movement + direction. The particle encodes the direction of 
the movement, while the lexical verb encodes the movement, as in: 

The children went down to the beach 

40.2.1 The Motion Event: Figure, Ground, Path and Manner 

It is here that the concept of Motion Event is revealing. The components in the Motion 
Event are Figure, Ground, Motion, and optionally, Path and Manner. Figure is the salient 
moving or stationary object in a motion event (we centre here on moving objects). In 
our previous example the children functions as Figure, while the beach serves as a point 
of reference or Ground with respect to which the Figure's Path is conceptualised. Path 
refers to the one or more paths occupied by the Figure. In our example Path is fully 
expressed by the adverb-like particle down plus the preposition to. The lexical verb went 
expresses Motion. 

Figure Motion Path Ground 

The children went down to the beach 


In English the notion of Manner is easily incorporated together with Motion in the lexical 
verb, giving combinations such as ran down and walked down, which encode the different 


ways in which the movement is carried out. In this way, the manner of movement is 
integrated into the verbal group without the need to add an adverbial phrase or clause 
of manner. 

Both Path and Manner are important components of phrasal verbs. In many clauses 
which express motion in English, the particle expressing Path can stand alone without 
the preposition, and also without the rest of the Ground, as in The children went down/ 
walked down. When the information in the Ground can be inferred from the context, it 
is conventionally omitted, as is the bracketed part in 1 and 2. In 3 the whole of the 
Ground is retained (back on the shelf): 

1 The bus stopped and we got on/got off (it, the bus). 

2 We turned off (the main road) down a side-road. 

3 Put all the books back on the shelf. 

Non-literal uses of Path combinations may not admit this reduction of the Path 
component. Compare the literal use of into as in go into the house with the non-literal 
use as in go into the matter: They went into the house/ They went in. They went into the 
matter/ *They went in. 

While many adverb-particles have the same form as prepositions (get on/ off the bus 
-get on/ off), the two categories are distinguished by certain features: 

A preposition is unstressed or lightly stressed; a particle receives heavy stress, even 
when they have the same form: compare come to class vs come TO (= recover 

A preposition is followed by a nominal element (noun, pronoun, -ing clause), a 
particle does not need to be followed by anything cf. climb up the cliff vs climb up. 
The category of particle includes words that don't function as simple prepositions: 
apart, together. Conversely, from and at are always prepositions, never particles; 
consequently, apart from and together with are complex prepositions (see Chapter 

English admits multiple expressions of Path, which include both particles and a 
preposition, as in: 

Paul ran back down into the garage. 

In this very ordinary English sentence, a great deal of information has been packed in: 
that the manner of motion was by running (ran); that Paul was returning to the place 
where he had been before (back); that his starting-point was higher than the garage, so 
that he had to descend (down), and that he went inside the garage, which was an 
enclosed place (into). Note that, in a semantic roles analysis, the preposition (in)to is a 
marker of Goal, the final location after the movement (see 59.2). 

A further (optional) component of the Motion Event is Cause. This is incorporated 
into English verb roots such as blow and knock, while the particle encodes Path as 


The paper blew off the table. = The Figure (the paper) moves from the 

Ground (the table) (due to the air blowing 

on it) 
I blew the crumbs off the table. = The Figure (the crumbs) moves from the 

Ground (the table) (due to my blowing 

on it) 
He knocked the lamp over. = The Figure (the lamp) moves from a 

vertical position (on an unspecified Ground) 

to a horizontal one (due to his giving it a 


The causer is not necessarily expressed, and when it is, the cause may be deliberate or 


It is characteristic of everyday colloquial English, and of a number of other languages, 
to express Path by particles (+ preposition) and to combine Manner with Motion in the 

This is not so in the Romance languages, however. Spanish and French, for instance, 
have a different pattern. Let us take the sentence Paul ran back up into the attic. 
Spanish can combine Motion in the lexical verb with just one of the above components, 
either Manner alone (corrio-ran), or just one of the Path notions (subir=go up; entrar-go 
in, volver-go back, followed by a participle expressing Manner). The literal equivalents 
of these are not idiomatic English and should be avoided: 

Pablo corrio al atico. ('Paul ran to the attic') 

Pablo volvio al atico corriendo. ('Paul went back to the attic running') 

Pablo subio al atico corriendo. ('Paul went up to the attic running') 

Pablo entro en el atico corriendo. ('Paul went into the attic running') 

To attempt to put in more would be awkward and stylistically unacceptable. For this 
reason, translators working from English to Spanish are obliged to under-translate, usu- 
ally omitting Path or Manner meanings. Conversely, in translations from Spanish into 
English over-translation is common through the addition of Path or Manner meanings. 
In both cases the aim is to provide a natural text in the target language. 

English phrasal and prepositional verbs often require to be translated into other 
languages by transposing the meanings of the verb and particle in the target language. 
For example, row across the lake can be translated into Spanish as cruzar el lago remando 
[literally cross the lake rowing}. The English particle across is translated as the main verb, 
cruzar, while the verb row is translated as a participle, remando. This process has been 
called cross transposition. In this case the transposition was complete, since both 
verb and adverb were translated. In other cases, either the verb or the particle is better 
not expressed, being inferred, as in: A bird flew in: Entro unpdjaro. The transposition is 
then 'incomplete' since the notion of flying has been omitted as not salient. 


40.2.3 Substituting Manner and Path elements 

The lexical verbs in non-idiomatic combinations are among the most frequently used 
English verbs, denoting basic movement, either with the whole body (go, carry, come, 
walk, etc.) or, more specifically, with part of the body (kick, hand, head, elbow, etc.), 
whereas others have very general or directional meanings (get, put, bring, take). 

They combine with a wide variety of adverb-particles. Since they allow substitution, 
we can start from each lexical verb such as those below and make combinations with 
various particles. Obviously, other lexical verbs and other particles can be used. Not 
every lexical verb can combine with every particle. Here is a small selection: 




Take it up 




Take it down 




Take it in 



go out 

carry out 

Take it out 




Take it off 




Take it away 




Take it back 

Alternatively, you can replace the basic lexical verb by a more specific verb of 
movement, while retaining the same adverbial particle. Instead of the basic go out, for 
instance, we can specify the manner of movement more exactly: walk out, run out, hurry 
out, rush out. With the notion of Cause added (= make come out), we have bring out, print 
out, squeeze out (You squeeze the toothpaste out like this). Such combinations have 
frequently developed a non-literal meaning, as in the following business news item: 

More supermarkets opening in-store chemists could squeeze out High Street 


A great deal of the opaqueness that learners find in phrasal verbs can be dispelled by 
acquiring a grasp of the basic meaning of each adverb-particle, together with some of 
the derived meanings. Take back, for instance. Back has two basic Path meanings. 

First, back can represent a circular path in which the Figure ends up where it 
started. This is the one expressed by Come back tomorrow, Put the books back on the 
shelves. The person or thing comes to be in the place or position where they were before, 
so that I'll be back at 4.30 means 'I'll be again in this place where I am now'. 

Close to the basic meaning is give back and pay back as in I'll give/ pay you back 
the money tomorrow (that is, I'll return the money to you tomorrow). By a short exten- 
sion, we have the meaning of reciprocity 'in return, in reply' as in I'll ring you back this 


evening. A metaphorical extension of pay back occurs as a threat in I'll pay you back 
for this! 

Second, back can have the meaning 'in the opposite direction to the one a person 
is facing' as in: 

stand back. Stand back from the edge of the platform! 

keep back. The police kept the crowd back as the royal car drew near. 

This meaning is given a figurative extension in His illness has kept him back all this term. 
With this second meaning, the end-point is not the same as the initial point. 


In semi-idiomatic combinations the lexical verb, generally speaking, keeps its literal 
or metaphorical meaning, while the particle is used as an aspectual marker of various 
kinds. By this we refer here to the way a particle with a verb in English can express the 
completion, beginning-point, end-point or high intensity of an event. Continuation, a kind 
of non-completion, can also be expressed. These notions are explained and discussed in 
Chapter 9 under the concepts of perfectivity and imperfectivity, respectively. 

Aspect is seen here as the pattern of distribution through time of an action or state, 
and relates to such questions as its completion, beginning-point, end-point or high 
intensity, all kinds of perfectivity. Non-completion, which is a type of imperfectivity, can 
also be expressed. 

The following connotations of particles have been suggested: 

1 beginning of an activity: doze off, switch on, start out 

He sat in an armchair in front of the television and soon dozed off. 

2 momentary character of an activity: cry out, sit down, wake up, stand up 

Everyone cried out in fear when the boat capsized. 

3 the bringing of an activity to an end or getting to a certain limit: eaf up, catch up, 
drink up, fill up, heat up, mix up, use up, sweep up; count out, hear out, knock out, 
sort out, throw out, wear out; break off, call off, cut off, sell off, switch off 

Heat up the milk but don't let it boil over. 

He hit the burglar so hard that he knocked him out. 

The two countries have broken off diplomatic relations. 

4 the slow completion of an activity: melt down, wind down, die away, fade away, 
melt away, pine away, waste away; chill out, peter out. 

The sound of thunder gradually died away/ faded away. 

We are all stressed out. Let's go and have a drink to wind down/chill out. 


5 the completion of an activity from beginning to end: read through, rush through, 
think through 

I don't think they have really fhougnfthe problem through. 

6 reach a different, non-integral or denatured state: break up, burn up, tear up 

Their marriage broke up. 

She tore up the letter and threw the bits of paper into the fire. 

7 the continuation or resumption of an activity: carry on, go on, keep on, work on, 
stay on, walk on. 

George carried on the family business. 

The orchestra wenf on/kept on playing as the Titanic sank. 

We stopped for a ten-minute break and then worked on until 7 o'clock. 

8 the continuation of an activity with dedication or abandon: work away, chat away 

They'll sit gossiping away/chatting away happily for hours. 

9 end of motion: settle down 

Isn't it time he got a job and settled down 1 ? 

10 distribution: give out, share out 

What are those leaflets that are being given out? 

1 1 decreased intensity: slow down, die down 

Slow down before you reach the crossing. 
The clamour finally died down. 

12 mass character of an activity in progressive sequence: die off, kill off 

All the rabbits have died off in this area. Flies die off as soon as winter comes. 

13 reciprocity of an activity: hit back 

Tom hit Bill and he hit him back. 

In phrasal verbs the notion of completion or bringing to an end is most clear in those 
cases in which there is a contrast with a single verb, as in use vs use up, eat vs eat up, 
drink vs drink up, knock vs knock out and so on. Compare I've used this detergent (i.e. some 
of this detergent) with I've used up this detergent ( = there is none left); He knocked the 
burglar down the stairs with He knocked him out (= left him unconscious). 


Fully idiomatic combinations are those in which the meaning of the whole is not easily 
deduced from the parts, although it may well be deduced from the context: 


The conversation petered out after about ten mintues. (gradually came to an end) 
Someone tipped off the police that a robbery was being planned, (warn, give secret 

The government has decided to crack down on antisocial behaviour, (impose 

The nonsense song caught on and was soon being heard everywhere, (become 

Please stop butting in. We are trying to balance the accounts, (interrupt) 

The illustrations given in these sections show that it is by no means easy to establish 
boundaries between what is idiomatic and what is not. Many verbs, both one-word and 
multi-word, have a number of related meanings according to their collocation with 
different nouns and depending on the contexts in which they are used. Particularly 
characteristic of phrasal verbs are their metaphorical extensions of meaning, from 
concrete to abstract or abstract to concrete; and from one context to another less typical 
one. A simple phrasal verb such as put up offers the following examples, among others: 

The boys have put up the tent, (erect) 

They're putting up a new block of flats, (build) 

They've put the bus fares up. (raise) 

I can put two of you up for a couple of nights, (provide a bed for) 

The others will have to put up at a hotel, (lodge) 

The project has been approved, but someone will have to put up the necessary 

funds, (provide) 
Our neighbours have put their house up for sale, (announce, offer) 


For structure of the VG and phase, similarity to the NG, Halliday (1994); Multi-word 
verbs, Quirk et al. (1985); aspectual meanings of phrasal verbs, Slobin (1996); Spasov 
(1978); Motion Event, Talmy (2002), Goldberg (1995). Collins Cobuild English Dictionary 
(1987); Cambridge International Dictionary of English (1995); Shorter Oxford English 
Dictionary (2002). 


Talking about events: The Verbal Group 

Module 37 

1 Discussion: Discuss the importance of the operator in English by examining its various 
syntactic features. Taking your own or another language as a basis of comparison, discuss 
how in that language each of the functions of the English operator would be realised. 


2 tRead the following extract and identify the functions of be, have [got) to and get as 
primary verb, as part of a lexical auxiliary or as a lexical verb: 

Imagine that you're out, 1 you're in Wolverhampton, 2 and you're about to cross the street, 3 
and round the corner comes a big lorry. What happens? Your sense organs have told 
you there's a big lorry. You've got to deal with it, 4 you can't fight it. You've got to 5 get 
across that road quickly. 6 All these things happen to you, all those hormones, particularly 
adrenaline, have got into your bloodstream 7 because you need this sudden burst of energy 
to get you across the road. 8 [bnc JJH 8026] 

3 tUnderline the Verbal Groups in the sentences below and then answer the questions: 

(1) A bicycle whizzed past me as I was crossing the road. 

(2) It startled me. 

(3) It also startled the elderly woman just ahead of me. She was clutching a bag or bundle 
or something, and almost fell. 

(4) 'Can't you be more careful?' I shouted after the cyclist. 

(5) He just turned his head a little, but said nothing. 

(6) He was pedalling fast and was soon lost in the traffic. 

(7) He could have injured us both. 

(8) The elderly woman's bundle had fallen open into the middle of the road. A strange 
collection of objects was rolling everywhere. 

(9) 'Are you all right?' I asked, as we scrambled to pick up the things before the lights 

In sentences 1-9 above: 

1 List the Verbal Groups of one element (v). 

2 List the Verbal Groups of two elements (o v) 

3 Are there any Verbal Groups of three elements (o x v)? 

4 What is the syntactic status of are in sentence 9? 

5 Write the elderly woman's answer to the question in sentence 9. 

6 Continue with another sentence starting: We might have . . . 

7 Now give the speaker's opinion of the cyclist, starting He was . . . 

8 Conclude with a general comment starting People should . . . 

4 tUsing the lexical auxiliaries and modal idioms listed in section 37.2, fill in the blanks in 
the sentences below with a form of be or fiave and the lexical auxiliary you consider most 
appropriate in each case: 

(1 ) Wheat-germ good for you, isn't it? 

(2) We have finished exams by the second week in July. 

(3) At what time the concert start? 

(4) Don't you think we enquire at the Information desk? 


(5) Will you pick us up at the station tomorrow evening? 

(6) I say something tactless, but I stopped myself in time. 

(7) The storms are so severe in this part of the world that basements flooded 

after ten minutes' rain. 

(8) Do you feel you really work in the library on a day like this? 

5 Rewrite the following sentences, which contain f/iaf-clauses, so that they have a raised 
subject with the same lexical auxiliary: 

(1) It's likely that the main markets will be France, Germany and Spain. 

(2) It was virtually certain that Diana and Charles would divorce. 

(3) It is sure that you will be among the first three. 

(4) It is supposed that he is her boyfriend. 

(5) It's not likely that you'll get a question like that. 

Module 38 

1 tWhat is the function of be in the following examples: lexical verb, progressive auxiliary, 
passive auxiliary or lexical auxiliary? 

(1) It's getting late. 

(2) I have never been here before. 

(3) Has he been invited to the reception? 

(4) There is sure to be some delay at airports this summer. 

2a |Give the syntactic structure of the Verbal Groups in the sentences below, and analyse 
them for the tense and ABCD features they contain. Do you see any discontinuous VGs? 

(1 ) Someone should be telling the present administration about Kenya. 

(2) Kenya was about to take off economically. 

(3) Our population fias been greatly increased. 

(4) That increase should have been expected. 

(5) It was realised thai modern medicine was cutting back the death rate dramatically. 

(6) But numerous mistakes were being made in the allocation of scarce national resources. 

(7) Our exports were earning less in real terms than they had been earning a decade 

(8) Many developing nations are gradually shifting their economic policies towards free 

(9) We feel that the country fias nof yet been able to achieve its potential. 
(10) But that potential should at least be receiving recognition. 

2b Now, re-write each sentence in 2a with a different combination of features but maintaining 
the lexical verb. For instance, for 1 : should have told or may have told. 

3 tComplete the sentences below (which make up a text) with Verbal Groups containing 
two, three or four auxiliaries, using the verbs indicated. Example 1 is done for you: 


(1) The last photograph (p ro 9- + pass.+ take) when I arrived, (was being 


(2) Pete {past + perf. + prog. + pass.+ instruct) on how to use a wide-angle 


(3) He [must + perf. + prog. + use) a filter. 

(4) He [can't + perf. + prog.+ use) a filter. 

(5) She [must + perf.+ move) when the photograph [take + 

prog. + pass.) 

(6) The film [will + prog. + pass. + develop) by my brother. 

(7) More colour films [be likely + pass. + sell) than ever this year. 

(8) And more cameras (be sure + perf. + pass. + buy) in the holiday period. 

(9) Look! Some kind of television film (p ro 9,- + pass. + shoot) over there. 

(10) I should say it [shoot + must + perf. + prog. + pass. + shoof), rather. 

They seem to have finished. 

Text for modules 37 and 38 combined 

5 t Underline the Verbal Groups in the following passage and then answer the questions 

A car with a trailer coming our way is passing and having trouble getting back into 
his lane. I flash my headlight to make sure he sees us. He sees us but he can't get 
back in. The shoulder is narrow and bumpy. If II spill us if we take it. I'm braking, 
honking, flashing. Christ Almighty, he panics and heads for our shoulder! I hold 
steady to the edge of the road. Here he COMES! At the last moment he goes back 
and misses us by inches. 

(Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance) 

(1) Which are more important to this text - actions or states? 

(2) Identify the finite VGs in the text. List separately the VGs in which finiteness is realised 
on the verb (the Finite is fused with the Event), and those in which the Finite is realised 
by an operator. 

(3) Are there any non-finite Verbal Groups in this extract? 

(4) What tense choice has been made in this text? 

(5) What aspectual (progressive) choices have been made? 

(6) What modality choices have been made? 

(7) What positive-negative polarity choices have been made? 

(8) What choices of contrastiveness have been made? 

(9) Can you explain how the sum of these choices helps to give the impression of 
movement and excitement and danger in this text? 


Module 39 

1 tDiscuss the different behaviour of the italicised verbs in (a) their use as an ordinary lexical 
verb and (b) as a catenative in phased verbal groups. Apply constituency tests (2.2), 
consider 'raised subjects' (37.3), and take into account possible lexical alternatives: 

(1) (a) What has happened? I pressed the switch but nothing happened. 
(b) We all happened to be away when the burglar broke in. 

(2) (a) A strange figure appeared in the doorway. 

(b) He appears to have misunderstood your explanation. 

(3) (a) Pete has failed the driving test again. 

(b) He fails to realise how important it is to practise. 

2 tUsing the VGs listed in 39.2, complete the phased Verbal Groups in the sentences below. 
The first one is done for you: 

(1 ) The supposedly quiet fishing village turned out to be/proved to be quite different from 
what the travel agency had led us to expect. 

(2) Did you go all the way to the other side of town to take part in the demonstration? - 
No, I just there. 

(3) Some years ago we to enquire whether a visa was necessary and were 

held up at the frontier for two days. 

(4) After unsuccessfully on several occasions to pass the seamanship test, 

he eventually do so at the fourth attempt. 

(5) Isn't there any washing-up liquid anywhere? - Well, there a little left 

at the bottom of the container. 

(6) The shop assistant reassure the child that her mother would come soon. 

(7) Even old black-and-white films coloured these days. 

(8) He convince the Customs official that he was not smuggling anything, 

but it be impossible. 

3 Read the following letter, taking note of the variety of Verbal Group structures used. Then 
write a reply to it, telling your own experiences in any environment you like. 

Dear Angela, 

Sorry I've taken so long to answer your very welcome letter. I meant to do so ages 

ago but then it got left to the half-term break. I must say, holidays do suit me much 


School is insane because of the new exam. No-one knows what rules we're 
supposed to be following for criteria assessment. Someone high-up issues a decree 
and then disappears while the opposite is decreed. If parents really knew what a 
mess it was, they'd be frantic. I've stopped worrying about my candidates as I feel 
if s out of my control. We're also secretly planning another reorganisation in Liverpool. 
I haven't been hit or sworn at yet. 


Philip is doing teaching practice in a hilarious school in Leicester where there is 
no 'confrontational discipline', i.e. some were arm-wrestling, some talking, some 
listening to Walkmans and some working. I hesitate to think about exam results. 
They've a 90% attendance record, which implies that our arm-wrestlers are just shop- 
lifting somewhere, so perhaps they've hit on the right idea. They're all on individual 
programmes. Here am I intending to try Romeo and Juliet on my low ability fourth 
year. I've told them if s not fair to deprive them. 

Claire's brother seems to have worked out a good arrangement. He lectures in 
Manchester, has three months on sabbatical leave and goes digging in Turkey or 
Greece. Funding doesn't seem to be a problem because the relevant countries or 
international groups give him grants, because his wife, who's a botanist, also comes 
up with information about plant types and soil, etc., that have succeeded or failed 
in the past. They have three children and all go camping, the baby being two weeks 
old on the last trip. 

I have talked about my family all the time. How are all of you? Keep me in the 

Much love, Jean 

Module 40 

1 tUnderline the Figure and Path(s) in the following examples. Decide whether the verb 
expresses (a) just Motion, (b) Motion + Manner or (c) Motion + Cause. 

(1) The president and his wife drove in an open carriage through the Place de la 
Concorde and on up the Champs-Elysees to their residence. 

(2) The ship slid out of the New York dock past the Statue of Liberty to the Atlantic. 

(3) She accidentally knocked a book off the bedside table. 

(4) Several trees were blown down. 

(5) He gulped down his beer. 

(6) We cycled back home. 

2 With the help of a good monolingual dictionary, list the Path meanings of up and ouf, with 

3 tSuggest an aspectual meaning for the italicised words in each of the following examples: 

(1 ) Fill up the tank, please. 

(2) He was kept on by his firm. 

(3) A lot of this scrap metal can be melted down and used again. 

(4) His vocation urged him on. 

(5) She woke up suddenly when the alarm went off. 

4 With the help of a good dictionary, try to work out the Path meaning(s) of over from the 
following examples (see also 59.2.3). 


(1 ) The travel agency is just over the road. 

(2) You can walk over the cliffs to Robin Hood's Bay. 

(3) Why don't you come over for a drink this evening? Fine! We'll drive over about 

(4) The milk has boiled over. 

(5) Many smaller firms have been taken over by larger ones. 

5 tin the passage preceding the one below in the novel, the 'three men in a boat' have tried 
unavailingly to open a tin of pineapple without a tin-opener (see 6.4.3, p. 63). 

Then we all got mad. We took the tin out on the bank, and Harris went up into a 
field and got a big, sharp stone, and I went back into the boat and brought out the 
mast, and George held the tin and Harris held the sharp end of the stone against the 
top of it, and I took the mast and poised it high in the air, and gathered up all my 
strength and brought it down. 

It was George's straw hat that saved his life that day, while Harris got off with 
merely a flesh wound. 

After that I took the tin off by myself, and hammered at it with the mast till I was 
worn out and sick at heart, whereupon Harris took it in hand. 

We beat it out flat; we beat it back square; we battered it into every form known 
to geometry, but we could not make a hole in it . . . Harris rushed at the thing, and 
caught it up, and flung it far into the middle of the river, and as it sank we hurled 
out curses at it, and we got into the boat and rowed away from the spot, and never 
paused till we reached Maidenhead. 

(Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men in a Boaf) 

(1) Identify the phrasal verbs in this passage. 

(2) Discuss whether the particles in the first paragraph have (a) a Path function, (b) an 
aspectual function. Suggest a meaning associated with each one. 

6 Read again the section on translation at the end of 40.2.2. Then translate the following 
into your own or another language and indicate whether the translation is complete or 

(1 ) He got on his bike and rode off. 

(2) The orders were sent out yesterday. 

(3) The cracks in the wall have been plastered over. 

(4) Now that all the kids have left we end up back where we started - just the two of us. 

(5) He was sent out to get some stamps. 

(6) He walked on away from the Real Madrid stadium entrance and the crowds towards 
the bus-stop on the Castellana. 



Tense, aspect and modality 

Module 41: Expressing location in time through the 

verb: tense 352 

41.1 The meaning of tense 352 

41.1.1 Present tense, Past tense and future time 353 

41.1.2 Stative and dynamic uses of verbs 354 

41 .2 Basic meanings of the Present tense 355 

41.2.1 The Instantaneous Present 355 

41.2.2 The State Present 355 

41.2.3 The Habitual Present 356 

41 .3 Secondary meanings of the Present tense: reference to past events 356 

41.4 Basic meanings of the Past tense 358 

41 .5 Secondary meanings of the Past tense: present and future reference 358 

41.6 Referring to future events 359 

41.6.1 'Safe' predictions 359 

41.6.2 Programmed events 359 

41.6.3 Intended events 360 

41.6.4 Imminent events 360 

41.6.5 Future anterior events 360 

Module 42: Past events and present time connected: 

Present Perfect and Past Perfect 361 

42.1 Present Perfect aspect and Past tense compared: anteriority vs definite time 361 

42.2 Time adjuncts and the Present Perfect aspect 363 

42.3 Current relevance 364 

42.4 Functions and discourse interpretations of the Present Perfect 364 

42.4.1 The experiential Perfect 364 

42.4.2 The continuous Perfect 365 

42.4.3 Implied meanings of the Present Perfect 365 

42.5 Expressing more distanced events: the Past Perfect 366 

42.6 Non-finite Perfect forms 368 

Module 43: Situation types and the Progressive aspect 369 

43.1 The meaning of aspect 369 

43.2 Lexical aspect of English verbs 370 

43.3 Grammatical aspects in English 372 

43.4 The meaning of the Progressive 373 

43.5 Lexical aspect and the Progressive 373 

43.5.1 States and the Progressive 373 

43.5.2 Punctual occurrences and the Progressive 374 

43.5.3 Verbs with no end-point and the Progressive 374 

43.5.4 End-point-completion verbs and the Progressive 375 

43.6 The discourse functions of the Progressive 375 

43.7 Present Perfect and Progressive aspects combined 376 

43.8 Habituality: past habit or state 377 

Module 44: Expressing attitudes towards the event: 

modality 379 

44.1 The meaning and functions of modality 379 

44.2 Realisations of modal meanings 380 

44.3 Extrinsic modality: modal certainty, probability and possibility 381 

44.3.1 Modal certainty: will, must, be bound to 381 

44.3.2 Probability or 'reasonable inference': should, ought 383 

44.3.3 Extrinsic possibility: may, might, could 383 

44.4 Structural features of extrinsic modality 385 

44.4.1 Summary of extrinsic modal and lexical-modal auxiliaries 

and their meanings 385 

44.5 Features of intrinsic modality: volition, obligation, necessity, permission 385 

44.5.1 Volition: willingness and intention: will, shall, 'II 386 

44.5.2 Inescapable obligation and necessity: must, have to, have got to, 

gotta, shall 387 

44.5.3 Negation of the modals must and may 388 

44.5.4 Non-binding obligation: should, ought 390 

44.6 Dynamic modality: Possibility, ability, permission, propensity: can, be able, 

could, will, would, may 390 

44.7 Hypothetical uses of the modals 393 

44.7. 1 Summary of intrinsic modals and modal meanings 393 

Further reading 394 

Exercises 394 





1 Tense is the grammatical expression of the location of events in time. It anchors 
an event to the speaker's experience of the world by relating the event time to 
a point of reference. The universal, unmarked reference point is the moment of 
speaking - speech time. In narrative, a point in past time is usually taken as the 
reference point. 

2 English has two tenses, the present and the past, the past being the marked 
form, both morphologically and semantically. 

3 The basic meaning of the present tense is to locate a situation holding at the 
present moment. This may be an instantaneous event (I promise to wait), a state 
which holds over time {Jupiter is the largest planet), or a habitual occurrence 
[He works in an office). Secondary meanings of the Present include reference 
to past and future events, 'historic present' (This man comes up to me . . .) and 
the quotative (and she goes/she's like 7 don't believe it'). 

4 The past tense primarily refers to a definite event or state that is prior to utterance 
time. Its secondary uses refer to a present event or state as hypothetical (If 
I were you) . 

5 English has no verbal inflection to mark a future tense. Instead, English makes 
use of a number of forms to refer to future events. 

Finite clauses in English can be marked for either tense or modality but not 
both. Verbs marked for tense are said to be 'tensed'. Non-finite clauses are 
not tensed. 


Tense is the grammatical expression of the location of events in time. It anchors (or 
'grounds') an event to the speaker's experience of the world by relating the event time 


to a point of reference. The normal, universal and therefore unmarked point of reference 
is the moment of speaking - speech time, what has been called 'the inescapable and 
constantly changing now in which all verbal interaction takes place'. Past events take 
place before the 'now', while future events are thought of as taking place after it. 

The location of the speaker, the moment of speaking and the speaker her/himself 
make up 'the /, the here and the now- the 'deictic centre' - which serves as the point 
of reference for definiteness and proximity (see Chapter 10). Tense, therefore, has a 
deictic function; it distinguishes a 'proximal' event expressed by the present tense from 
a 'distal' event expressed by the Past tense. The 'now' can be diagrammed as shown. 

past time 


the present 

future time 

41.1.1 Present tense, Past tense and future time 

Tense is a grammatical category that is realised in English morphologically on the verb. 
In accordance with this criterion, English has just two tenses: the Present and the Past, 
as in goes/ went, respectively. English has no verbal inflection to mark a future tense. 
The forms shall and will are not verbal inflections but modal auxiliaries which, when 
reduced, are attached to pronouns, not to the verb root (I'll wait outside). Also important 
are the form-meaning relationships. Shall and will belong to a set of modal auxiliaries 
and can express meanings other than reference to future time, as we shall see later in 
this chapter (see 44.1). Instead of a future tense, English makes use of a number of 
combinations such as be going to to refer to future events (see 41.6) Compare: 

They do the shopping on Saturdays, (present tense) 

They did the shopping on Saturday, (past tense) 

They are going to do/ will do the shopping on Saturday, (lexical auxiliary/ modal) 

In general, as these examples illustrate, past and present events are taken to have 
the status of real events, while references to the future are to potential, that is unreal, 

In English, therefore, the three-term semantic distinction into past, present and future 
time is grammaticalised as a two-term tense distinction between Past tense and Present 


Besides tensed forms of verbs, other linguistic forms, particularly adverbs of time 
such as now, then, tomorrow, PPs such as in 1066 and lexico-grammatical expressions 
such as ten minutes after the plane took off can make reference to time. English, in fact, 
relies to a considerable extent on such units to make the temporal reference clear. 

The Past tense in English is the marked form. Cognitively, the situations con- 
ceptualised by the speaker as past have the status of known, but not immediate, reality; 
they are not currently observed. Morphologically, the vast majority of verbs in English 
have a distinctive past form, (played, saw) and, semantically, the past tense basically 
refers to a situation that is prior to the present, as in Yesterday was fine. (See 41.5 for 
secondary meanings.) 

The Present tense is the unmarked tense. Cognitively, it expresses situations which 
have immediate reality, that is, what is currently observed. Morphologically, it is marked 
only on the 3rd person singular (with the exception of be, which has three forms (am, 
are and is). Semantically, it covers a wider range of temporal references than the Past 
tense, including reference to future time (Tomorrow is a holiday). 

Even in our everyday use, 'at present' and 'at the present time' have a wider application 
than simply to the present moment of speech time. Thus, Birds have wings represents a 
situation which holds not only at the present time but has also held in the past, and will 
conceivably continue to hold in the future. It can be diagrammed as shown here. 

past time now future time 

Birds have wings 


41 .1 .2 Stative and dynamic uses of verbs 

The meaning expressed by a verb in present or past tense depends to a great extent on 
whether the verb refers to a single constant state, as in / know her address, or to a dynamic 
occurrence, as in He goes to work by train. 

More exactly, the meaning depends on whether the verb is being used statively or 
dynamically, since many verbs lend themselves to both interpretations. 'Have' usually 
refers to a state, as in birds have wings, but it also has dynamic uses as in have breakfast. 

In general, dynamic but not stative senses can occur with the imperative and 
progressive, and after do in wh-c\eft sentences: 

Have breakfast! We are having breakfast. What we did was have breakfast. 
*Have wings! *Birds are having wings. *What birds do is have wings. 


It is important to realise that, in the following sections, the Present tense is what is 
sometimes referred to as the 'simple' Present, more exactly as the 'non-progressive 
Present'. The Progressive, consisting of a form of be + -ing, is a verbal aspect which 
combines with tense. It is discussed in Module 43 as encoding a single event observed 
in the process of happening. There is a meaningful distinction - and an obligatory choice 
in English - between expressing a situation by means of the Present tense alone and 
expressing it by the Present Progressive. Compare: 

The sun doesn't shine everyday in Brussels, (non-Progressive Present) 
but it is shining today. (Progessive Present) 


The basic meaning of the Present tense is to locate a situation holding at the present 
moment. The tense itself does not say whether that same situation continues beyond 
the present moment and whether it also held in the past. These are implications which 
we derive from our knowledge of the world and from the type of situation encoded in 
the clause. 

In fact it is relatively rare for a situation to coincide exactly with the present moment, 
that is, to occupy a single point in time, literally or conceptually. Situations of this nature 
do occur, however and can be classed together as types of the Instantaneous Present. 

41.2.1 The Instantaneous Present 

These are events which coincide, or are presented as coinciding, with speech time and 
have no duration beyond speech time: 

Performatives: I promise I'll be careful, (see 25.1) 

Exclamations with initial directional adverb: Off they go! (at the start of a race) 

In you get\ (helping someone to get in a car, etc.) 
Commentaries: Jones passes and Raul kicks the ball into the net. 
Demonstrations: I place the fruit in the blender, press gently, and then pour out the 


More characteristically, the Present is used to refer to situations which occupy a longer 
period of time than the moment of speaking, but which nonetheless include speech time. 
Traditionally these situations are classed according to the verb as stative uses and 
habitual uses of the Present. 

41.2.2 The State Present 

Used with stative verb senses, the Present refers to a single uninterrupted state, which 
began before the moment of speaking and may well continue after it. They include 
timeless statements, that is, statements which apply to all time, including speech time: 

Jupiter is the largest planet in the solar system. 


They also include states whose time span is not endless, e.g. know, think, believe, belong, 
stand for. They are nevertheless states in which no change or limitation into the past or 
future is implied. Here too the temporal reference includes speech time. 

I think you are right. 

MP stands for Member of Parliament. 

41.2.3 The Habitual Present 

This is used with dynamic verbs to encode situations that occur habitually over time, 
even if the action is not being carried out at the moment of speaking. For instance, 
referring to the following examples, Tim may not actually be working, nor the leaves 
falling at the moment of speaking. Nevertheless, the recurrent situation holds as the 
normal course of things and is appropriately referred to by the Present tense. 

Tim works in an insurance company. 
Many trees lose their leaves in autumn. 

Again, it must be pointed out that the plain Present tense used for habitual and other 
meanings contrasts with the Present Progressive, which encodes an actual occurrence 
of a dynamic action observed in the process of happening, as in Tim is working late today, 
The trees are already losing their leaves (see 43.4-43.7). 


The Present can be used to refer to past events in certain limited ways. 

In newspaper headlines and captions to photographs 

Thousands flee persecution. 

Demonstrators clash with armed police as violence increases. 

In relating incidents in informal, casual speech: the historic present 
and the quotative 

He was only an average athlete, and then suddenly he wins two Olympic medals. 
I had just left the bank when this guy comes up to me and asks for money. 

The Present tense in headlines and the sudden switch from Past to Present in speech 
have the effect of dramatising the event, bringing it before the reader's eyes as if it were 
an instance of the instantaneous Present. However, the headline stands apart from the 
text, while the 'historic present' switch occurs within the discourse at a key point in 
the narrative, and is frequently paralleled by a switch to a proximal demonstrative (this), 
as in the example: this guy comes up. 


Go and be like are used by young speakers talking among themselves, as quotative 
verbs like say, to introduce direct speech as in: 'and she goes "What's he like?" and I'm 
like "Gorgeous".' They usually occur in the Present tense. These verbs are not used in 
this way by all speakers. 

In reporting information 

With verbs of communicating (say, tell) and of perception (see, hear, understand) the use 
of the Present implies that the reported information is still valid, even though the 
communicative process took place in the past. With a Past tense, the validity is not 

The weather forecast says that rain is on the way. 
/ understand that you would like to move to London. 

Some of the uses of the Present tense are illustrated in this feature article from The 

Pete earns his living by breaking into other people's homes. He rises early, dresses 
smartly - 'jeans, loafers, shirt, good coat; everthing ironed and clean' - and tucks 
surgical gloves (his anti-fingerprint protection) up his sleeves. He picks 'nice' - by 
which he means moderately affluent - houses within five minutes of an underground 
or railway station in case he needs an emergency getaway. He targets houses 
screened from the street by a hedge or fence, and rings the bell. 'If someone comes, 
I've got a set of car keys in my hand. "Minicab? No? Oh, sorry. Wrong house. Third 
time that's happened this week".' 

Once he's certain no one's at home, he goes down the side of the house, vaulting 
gates. 'Boof - over the top. I'm only ten stone and I'm fit. I've gone up plastic 
drainpipes and got through toilet windows this size,' he indicates a tiny square with 
his hands. He either forces or smashes a small window, leans in and breaks the main 
window locks. 'They do feel solid, but you can snap 'em.' His aim is to be in and out 
in three minutes. He double locks the front door to forestall unwelcome interruption. 
- 'I'm on my toes now . . . running for the stairs ... I'm doing like four steps at a 
time' - and identifies the master bedroom. 'Your jewellery is either on your bedside 
chest, or in the top two drawers. Not there? Your wardrobe or the drawers in your 
bed - I've got it.' He leaps up and claps his hands, reliving the adrenaline rush. 'I 
pull your pillow out - everything goes wrapped up in a pillowcase, then inside my 
jacket and boof! - I'm off. I don't bother with the other rooms.' He leaves by the 
front door or through a neighbouring garden. If he's spotted he brazens it out. 'I 
walk past 'em. All right mate?' I do six, seven, maybe ten burglaries in a day's work" 
(Pete uses the words 'work' and 'earning' without irony.) He steals only jewellery, 
netting thousands of pounds. But the money - spent on drugs, clubbing, clothes, his 
daughters - slips through his hands like wet soap. 



We have seen that the basic meaning of the Past tense in English is to locate an event 
or state in the past. It situates the event at a 'temporal distance' from the moment of 
speaking, whether in time, towards the past, or with regard to potential or hypothetical 
events which have not yet occurred in the present or the future. 

When used to refer to a definite past event or state, the Past in English contains two 
semantic features: 

The speaker conceptualises the event as having occurred at some specific time in 
the past. 

The event is presented as wholly located in the past, in a time-frame that is 
separated from the present. 

These features are illustrated in the following examples: 

James Joyce was born in Dublin in 1882. 

He lived in Ireland until 1904 and spent the rest of his life abroad. 

The Past tense in English says nothing about whether the event occupied a point in 
time or a longer extent. These additional meanings are understood from the lexical verb 
used and from the whole situation represented by the clause. In the examples above 
referring to one single person, was born is interpreted as referring to a point in time, 
while lived and spent are interpreted as being of longer duration. With a plural subject, 
the Past tense were born is interpreted here as referring not to one single point in time 
but to many: 

Generations of writers were bom who imitated Joyce's style of writing. 

In using the Past tense, speakers do not need to specify a past occurrence by means of 
an Adjunct, however. As long as the speaker has a specific time in mind and can assume 
that the hearer infers this from the situational context, the Past tense is used, as in: 

Did you see that flash of lightning? 

[Who said that?] It wasn 't me. 

I spoke to a dancer from the Bolshoi ballet. 


The Past tense can refer to time-frames other than the past in the following three ways: 

In 'closed conditionals' and other hypothetical subordinate clauses 

which express a counterfactual belief or presupposition on the part of the speaker. 
The reference is to present time. The past in such expressions was originally a 
subjunctive whose only relic remains in the form were for all persons of be. 


If we had enough time . . . presupposes we haven't enough time 

He talks as if he owned the place. presupposes he doesn't own the place 
I often wish I were somewhere else, presupposes I am not somewhere else 

In reported speech or thought: after a reporting verb in the Past tense, the 
reported verbs in the dependent clauses are also in the Past. This phenomenon is 
known as 'backshift' (see 36.3). Present tense forms are optional, as in She said she 
prefers/ preferred vanilla ice cream, as long as the situation is still valid. 
In polite requests and enquiries, the past form 'distances' the proposed action, 
so making the imposition on the hearer less direct: 

Did you want to speak to me now? 

I wondered whether you needed anything. 


We cannot refer to future events as facts, as we can to past and present situations, since 
future events are not open to observation or memory. We can predict with more or less 
confidence what will happen, we can plan for events to take place, express our intentions 
and promises with regard to future events. These are modalised rather than factual 
statements, and are treated in 44.3. Here we simply outline the main syntactic means 
of referring to future events as seen from the standpoint of present time. 

4 1 .6. 1 'Safe' predictions 

These are predictions which do not involve the subject's volition, and include cyclical 
events and general truths. Will + infinitive is used, shallby some speakers for T and 'we': 

Susie will be nineteen tomorrow. 

You' // find petrol more expensive in France. 

Will/shall + progressive combine the meaning of futurity with that of focusing on the 
internal process, in this way avoiding the implication of promise associated with will 
when the subject is T or 'we'. Compare: 

I will (I'll) speak to him about your application tomorrow. 
We shall (we'll) be studying your application shortly. 

41.6.2 Programmed events 

Future events seen as certain because they are unalterable 1 or programmed 2, 3 and 
4 can be expressed by the Present tense + time adjunct, by will or by the lexical 
auxiliaries be due to + infinitive and be to (simple forms only): 

1 The sun sets at 20. 1 5 hours tomorrow. 

2 Next year's conference w;7/be held in Milan. 


3 He is due to retire in two months' time. 

4 She is to marry the future heir to the throne. 

41.6.3 Intended events 

Intended events can be expressed by be + going to + infinitive 1 and by the Progressive 
(be + -ing) 2. These forms can be marked for tense. The past forms refer to an event 
intended at some time in the past to occur in some future time 3. As with all intended 
events, they may or may not actually take place. (See also modal will, 44.6.) 

1 I am going to try to get more information about this. 

2 Pete is thinking of changing his job. 

3 I was going to leave a note but there was no-one at Reception, [bnc bmr 625] 

41.6.4 Imminent events 

An event seen as occurring in the immediate future is expressed by be + going to or by 
combinations such as: be about to + infinitive, be on the point of I be on the verge of+ -ing. 
There is usually some external or internal sign of the imminence of the happening. 

It looks as if there's going to be a storm. 

This company is about to be/ on the verge of being taken over by a multinational. 

An expectation orientated to past time is expressed by the corresponding forms in the 

It's not what I thought it was going to be. 

. . . the territory which was later to be part of Lithuania. 

41.6.5 Future anterior events 

A future event anterior to another event is expressed by the Future Perfect: 

The programme will have ended long before we get back. 
By the time he is twenty-two, he'll have taken his degree. 

Otherwise, the Future Perfect expresses the duration or repetition of an event in the 
future. The addition of the Progressive emphasises the incompletion of the sequence 
(see 43.4): 

We'// have lived here for ten years by next July. 
We'll have been living here for ten years by next July. 




Present Perfect and Past Perfect 


1 Both tense and aspect have to do with time relations expressed by the verb, but 
from different perspectives. While tense basically situates an event or state in 
present or past time, aspect is concerned with such notions as duration and 
completion or incompletion of the process expressed by the verb. English has 
two aspects, the Perfect and the Progressive. We first consider the Perfect 
aspect, noticing how it differs from the simple tenses. In Module 43, we go 
on to consider the Progressive aspect. 

2 The Present Perfect is a retrospective aspect which views a state or event as 
occurring at some indefinite time within a time-frame that leads up to speech 

3 The event is viewed as psychologically relevant to the present. By contrast, an 
event encoded in the Past tense is viewed as disconnected from the present. 

4 Consequently, the Perfect is not normally interchangeable in English with the 
Past tense. For the same reason, the time adjuncts accompanying them are 
normally different. 

5 Implications of recency, completion and result, derived from the combination 
of Present Perfect and verb type, are all manifestations of current relevance. 

6 The Past Perfect is used to refer to events previous to those expressed by a past 
tense or by a Present Perfect. 


The Perfect construction in English relates a state or event to a relevance time (R). This 
is speech time for the Present Perfect, some point in time prior to speech time for the 
Past Perfect and some point in time after speech time for the Future Perfect. 


The Present Perfect is a subtle retrospective aspect which views states or events as 
occurring in a time-frame leading up to speech time. Expressed by have + past participle, 
the have element is present, the participle is past. The event is psychologically connected 
to the present as in the following example, which is diagrammed to show relevance 

His marriage has broken down and he has gone to live in another part of England speech 


These and other features contrast with those of the Past tense: 

Present Perfect 

Past Tense 

a. Its time-frame is the extended now, 
a period of time which extends up to 
speech time. 

Its time-frame is the past, which is 
viewed as a separate time-frame from 
that of the present. 

b. The event occurs at some indefinite 
and unspecified time within the 

extended now. The Perfect is non- 
deictic - it doesn't 'point' to a specific 
time but relates to a relevant time. 

The event is located at a specific and 
definite time in the past. 

The Past tense is deictic - it points to a 
specific time in the past. 

c. The event has 'current relevance', 

that is, it is viewed as psychologically 
connected to the moment of speaking. 

The event is seen as psychologically 
disconnected from the moment of 

Within the extended now, the Present Perfect is used in English when the speaker 
does not wish to refer to a definite moment of occurence of the event, but simply to the 
anteriority of the event. This is in marked contrast with the definite time use of the 
Past tense. Compare: 

They have left for New York. 

They left for New York an hour ago. 

Similarly, the Present Perfect is not normally used in main clauses with interrogative 
adverbs, which imply definite time and require the Past tense. 

We can say Have they started? Have they finished? (Present Perfect) 

Or When did they start? At what time did they finish? 

(Past tense) 
But not * When have they started? *At what time have they finished? 

When a definite time is not implied by the verb the Present Perfect is possible: 


Where have you most enjoyed working? [bnc bna 28496] 

In subordinate clauses, with future reference, the Present Perfect can follow when, since 
this use refers to an unspecified time: When I have finished, I'll call you. 

Furthermore, the Present Perfect operates in a time-frame that is still open, block- 
ing examples such as la and 2a. By contrast the b examples are grammatical, as are 
3 and 4: 

la *James Joyce has been born in Dublin, lb James Joyce was born in Dublin. 

2a *He has lived in Ireland until 1904. 2b He lived in Ireland until 1904. 

3 Michael has lived in Ireland all his life (implying that he still lives there). 

4 Generations of writers have been influenced by Joyce (and are still influenced). 

In la and 2a the Perfect is blocked because Joyce's life-span is over. In 3 this is not the 
case. In 4 the plural subject 'generations of writers' allows for a time-frame that is open. 
The perspective of the 'extended now' time-frame in contrast with that of the Past 
tense is illustrated in this passage from Penelope Lively's Moon Tiger. 

I've grown old with the century; there's not much left of either of us. The century of 
war. All history, of course, is the history of wars, but this hundred years has excelled 
itself. How many million shot, maimed, burned, frozen, starved, drowned? God only 
knows. I trust He does; He should have kept a record, if only for His own purposes. 
I've been on the fringes of two wars; I shan't see the next. The first preoccupied me 
not at all; this thing called War summoned Father and took him away for ever. Isaw 
it as some inevitable climactic effect: thunderstorm or blizzard. The second lapped 
me up but spar me out intact. Technically intact. / have seen war; in that sense / have 
been present at wars, / have heard bombs and guns and observed their effects. 


The Present Perfect aspect is frequently accompanied by time Adjuncts that refer to a 
period of time that is still open at the moment of speaking, e.g. this week, this month, this 
year, etc. Adjuncts which refer to a period of past time that is now over (e.g. last month, 
last year, yesterday) are incompatible with the Perfect. Compare: 

Have you seen any good films this month? *Haveyou seen any good films last month 

A period of time expressed by an adjunct such as in July is either open or closed 
depending on the speaker's vantage-point. If closed, the verb is in the Past tense: 

Temperatures have reached an all-time high in July. (July is not yet over) 
Temperatures reached an all-time high in July. (July is over) 


Adjuncts of indefinite or unspecified 
time used with the Perfect, such as: 

Adjuncts of definite or specific time 
used with past tense, such as: 

sometimes, often, always, never, at times 


twice, three times 

last week, last year, last month 

in the last ten years 

an hour ago, two years ago 

lately, recently, now 

last June, in 1 066 

at 4 o'clock, at Christmas, at Easter 


By 'current relevance' we mean that the event referred to by means of the Present Perfect 
is psychologically connected to speech time, and has some (implicit) relevance to it. 

This meaning is quoted in all accounts of the present perfect and is considered by 
some to be the main one. It is undoubtedly of the utmost importance. Nevertheless, 
we prefer to consider current relevance as a pragmatic implication deriving from 
the combination of time-frame, perfect aspect and verb type. This will become clear as 
we turn to the interpretations of the perfect in discourse. 

At this point we simply illustrate the notion of current relevance as follows: They have 
been out implies that they have now come back, whereas They went out has no such 
implication. It would not be normal to say *They have been out a moment ago (since an 
adjunct such as 'a moment ago' visualises a definite time in the past, no matter how 

Occasional occurrences in spoken English of forms which appear to combine the two 
can be explained as mental switches from an indefinite to a definite time-frame produced 
as speakers modify their messages as they go along. Regional variation may also be a 


Interpretations of the functions of the Perfect are described under certain well-known 
labels, as follows. 

42.4.1 The experiential Perfect 

This refers to the fact that there have been one or more experiences of the event in 
the recent history 1 and 2, or in the life-span 3 of a certain person up to the present 
time, as in: 


1 I've been ill. 

2 We've been away. 

3 You've lived in Brighton, and you've lived in Kingston and now you live in 
Lewes. [bnc krg 1 188] 

Included in this type is the first-time experience use, as in It's the first time I've been 
here, for which certain languages use a Present tense. 

Another is the contrast between the one-way have gone to and the cyclic have 
been to, as in: 

Peter's gone to England = he's still there 

Peter's been to England = he has returned after a visit to England 

This explains the anomalous * I've gone to England, and the fact that I've been to England 
several times is normal, whereas *I've gone to England several times is odd. 

42.4.2 The continuous Perfect 

This is a state, duration or repeated occurrence of a process such as walk, lasting up to 
speech time. An adjunct of extent is virtually necessary to complete the meaning. 

I have known Bill since we were at school together, (i.e. and I still know him) 
We have walked for hours, (up to the present moment) 
For the last ten years he has lived and worked in Brussels, (i.e. He still does) 
Over the last three years the pressure group has staged a number of hunger strikes. 

For and over + a unit of time (for hours, over the last three years) express the duration 
of the event from the vantage point of speech time, and this form is retrospective. Since 
+ a point of time expresses extent viewed from the initiation of the event, and is 

42.4.3 Implied meanings of the Present Perfect 

Deriving from the features and main uses of the present perfect, certain implications 
are associated with it, especially in BrE. These are recency, completion and resulting 


The Present Perfect lends itself to a 'hot news' interpretation, which can be reinforced 
by just. In AmE, at least with some verbs, the Past + just is used. 

The Prime Minister has resigned. 

He's done it! (played the winning ball in a golf tournament) (sports commentary) 

We've just eaten/had lunch. (BrE) We just ate. (AmE) 



This is the pragmatic implication arising from the combination of the Perfect with 
processes having an end-point (see 43.2), as in grow up, tape something: 

Hundreds of people have been evacuated from their homes, which have been burnt to 

rubble, (news) 
His brothers have grown up and have left home. 

You can listen to what you've taped. Oh yeah, you can play it back, [bnc kcl7] 

Resulting state 

Such situations with the Perfect are in many cases interpreted as having a visible result 

You 've squashed my shoe! [bnc kpo 838] 

(The shoe is in a squashed state) 

I've baked a cake, (the cake is visibly made) 

The result may be resulting knowledge or know-how, as implied in He has learned to 
drive. These are all forms of current relevance. 

In certain types of discourse such as news items a topic is presented as 'hot news' 
by a clause with the Present Perfect and an indefinite NG. Once the topic has been 
introduced, the narrative continues in the Past tense, and the NGs are treated as definite, 
as in the following short news item from The Week. 

A polar bear has become the star attraction at a zoo in Argentina. But the extra- 
ordinary spectacle only happened by accident. When Pelarus, a 14-year-old bear, 
developed a stubborn case of dermatitis, zookeepers at Mendoza zoo tried every 
medicine under the sun, but to no avail. As a last resort, they gave the bear an 
experimental medication which had a bizarre side effect - it turned Pelarus purple. 
Officials aren't complaining: not only is the bear on the road to recovery, but visitor 
numbers are up by 50%. 


To refer to an event that is previous to another event in the past, the Past Perfect is used 
(had + past participle). It can represent a distanced event of three different types: 

(a) the past of the Past tense as in the la examples. When the time relation is unam- 
biguous, the past tense can replace the Past Perfect in English as in lb: 

la We had heard nothing from Tony before he returned. 
She didn't mention that she had seen you at the match. 


lb We heard nothing from Tony before he returned. 
She didn't mention that she saw you at the match. 

(b) the past of the Present Perfect: 

She had lived in the north since she changed her job. 

corresponding to: 

She has lived in the north since she changed her job. 

(c) the 'unreal' past in counterfactual conditions: 

If I had known he was in trouble, 1 would have helped him. 

As the Past Perfect refers to a time previous to a time signalled somewhere else in 
the context, it is not always easy to determine its time reference. For this reason, the 
Past Perfect often occurs in subordinate clauses accompanied by time Adjuncts, both 
of which help to establish the temporal links between events. Furthermore, as English 
has only this one tense to refer to any time previous to the past, it is used to express a 
series of events each preceding the other. 

The role of the Past Perfect in orientating the reader in tracking events is illustrated 
in this extract from William Boyd's The New Confessions. The Past tense described marks 
a switch from one space-time unit to another in the story: 

Duric Ludokian was ] a huge wealthy Armenian who had fled 2 from his native country 
to Russia in 1 896 shortly after the first Turkish massacres and pogroms against the 
Armenian people had begun. 3 He had fled 4 again in 1918 after the Russian 
Revolution and was among the first of the thousands of Russian emigres who found 5 
sanctuary in Berlin. Ludokian had made 6 his fortune in nuts. He described himself 
as a 'nut importer'. 

The sequence of events in time would be as follows, reading from right to left: 



had fled -*- had fled 

— *- found — >~ 

had made 



had begun 

in 1896 in 1918 



2 4 






previous to 






The time-frame of the Perfect is also reflected in non-finite Perfect forms to have + 
participle and having + participle: 

To have made such a statement in public was rather unwise. 

Having satisfied himself that everything was in order, he locked the safe. 





1 Important aspectual contrasts include perfectivity (viewing the event as a 
whole) vs imperfectivity (viewing the event as incomplete). These distinctions 
remain indeterminate in English in the simple Past and Present tense forms. 
Perfectivity then must be interpreted from the whole clause. 

2 The only grammaticalised aspectual contrasts in English are the Progressive vs 
non-progressive and the Perfect vs non-perfect. (The Perfect is not identical to 

3 Progressiveness is a type of imperfectivity which focuses on the continuousness 
of the internal part of the event. Another type, that of past habituality, is 
expressed by the lexical auxiliary used to + inf. 

4 Situations (and verbs) can be classed according to their inherent aspectual 
meaning as states (with no internal change: It's hot), as punctual occurrences 
(the cable snapped], as durative occurrences without an end-point: we walked 
along (activities) and as durative with an end-point: we walked home 

5 The Progressive and Perfect aspects add their communicative perspectives to 
the inherent aspectual meaning of the verb. Other factors to be taken into 
account, in order to understand the aspectuality of a particular verbalised 
situation, are the single or multiple nature of the subject and object, and the 
presence of Adjuncts. 


While tense is used to locate events in time, aspect is concerned with the way in 
which the event is viewed with regard to such considerations as duration and completion 


when encoded by a verb. This is sometimes defined as the internal temporal contour 
of the event. Compare, for instance, the following representations of a situation: 

la He locked the safe, lb He was locking the safe. 

As regards tense, both are the same - the Past. They both locate the situation in past 
time. The difference is one of aspect, expressed by the verbal form was locking as 
opposed to the ordinary past locked. What we have is a difference of viewpoint and of 
focus of attention. 

A basic aspectual distinction is that of perfectivity vs imperfectivity: 

Perfective: the situation is presented as a complete whole, as if viewed externally, 
with sharp boundaries, as in la. (Note that perfectivity is not the Perfect aspect!) 
Imperfective: the situation is viewed as an internal stage, without boundaries and 
is conceptualised as ongoing and incomplete; the beginning and end aren't included 
in this viewpoint - we see only the internal part, as in lb. The Progressive is thus 
a kind of imperfectivity. 

In many languages the perfective/ imperfective pairs are related morphologically. 
Having fewer aspectual inflections, English has fewer grammaticalised aspectual choices 
than some languages. Take for instance the following examples containing the verb 
speak, together with their Spanish counterparts: 

2a He stopped and spoke to me in English. (Spanish hablo) 
2b He spoke English with a Welsh accent. (Spanish hablaba) 

The Past tense in English does not distinguish formally between the single event 
represented in 2a, whose counterpart in Spanish is marked as perfective (hablo), and 
the habitual event represented in 2b, which is marked as imperfective in Spanish 

In other words, the Past tense in English is indeterminate between a perfective 
and an imperfective interpretation. This distinction is captured inferentially by speakers 
according to the relevance of one meaning or other within a context, but is not 


Before examining the second grammatical aspect available to speakers of English, the 
Progressive, we turn for a moment to lexical aspect. All verbs (and predicates) have an 
inherent lexical aspect. We have touched on this concept in outlining the stative vs 
dynamic distinction, phased verbal groups and the behaviour of particles in phrasal 

Lexical aspect proves to be an invaluable tool for understanding the functioning of 
the Progressive and the Perfect aspects. In fact, it is not easy to grasp the contribution 
made by the grammatical aspects without realising how they interact with the lexical 


aspect of the verb. In taking a little further the stative-dynamic distinction, we will now 
be considering whole situations to which the verb brings its own inherent aspectuality, 
in terms of two factors: 

temporal boundaries: whether the situation is bounded (i.e. has an end-point) or 
unbounded (has no end-point) 
duration or non-duration (through time) 

The diagram illustrates the main situation types. 


■ States Jane is their eldest daughter 

(dynamic, durative) 

- Occurrences 

Unbounded (no end-point) 


we walked slowly along 
he swam in the pool 

Bounded (+end-point) 

we walked home 

he swam 70 lengths in an hour 

the sun went down 

Punctual occurrences the cable snapped 

Reading from left to right in the diagram, situations can be classified as follows: 

1 States vs Occurrences. States have relatively long duration but do not have 
boundaries: they are unbounded, as with verbs such as be, stand (The house stands 
on a hill). Occurrences are dynamic and more complex. They are subdivided 
according to duration into: 

2 Processes vs punctual occurrences. Processes are durative, they last through 
time, while punctual occurrences occupy little or no appreciable time and have 
sharp boundaries, e.g. the cable snapped. (Note that 'process' is used here differently 
from its use as a general term for the semantic structure of clauses, as discussed in 
Chapter 5.) 

3 Durative processes are divided into those that have no end-point (unbounded 
Activities), as in He walked slowly along, and those that have a sharp end-point 
(bounded Accomplishments), as in he walked home. The latter consist of two phases, 
a durative phase, the walking, and a terminative phase, the arrival home. The 
durative phase is usually not in focus unless combined with progressiveness (see 

Note that although the traditional terms, Activities and Accomplishments, suggest 
human agency, it is not the case that all processes are agentive. It rained heavily, for 
instance, is a non-agentive activity. The key concept here is boundedness, that is, 
whether or not there is an end-point. 


The way in which a situation is viewed can be modified in various ways: 

By adding an adjunct or an adverbial particle such as up, which establishes an end- 
point: In this way an unbounded situation can be made bounded. Compare: 

unbounded process bounded process 

It rained heavily. It rained heavily until six o 'clock. 

The children have grown in your The children have grown up in your 

absence. absence. 

He read the book for an hour. He read the book in an hour. 

By including a multiple subject or object instead of a single element, a situation is 
presented as repeated or 'serial'. This effect can also be achieved by adjuncts. 

He rang his agent last week. They rang their agents every day last week. 

By grammatical aspect, which we deal with next. 

Verbs corresponding to each of the four groups include: 

1 Stative verbs: be, belong, seem, stand, lie, have, want, know, understand, see, 
hear, feel, like, dislike, hate, love. 

2 Punctual or momentary verbs: cough, blink, flash, hit, tap, slam, slap, 
kick, shoot. 

3a Unbounded-process verbs: bend, dance, drive, read, sleep, write, walk, work. 
3d Bounded-completion verbs: be born, die, fall, drop, arrive, sit down, 
stand up. 


English has two clearly grammaticalised aspectual distinctions: the Progressive, as in 
was locking vs the non-progressive in locked; and the Perfect, as in has locked vs the 
non-perfect locked. We have seen that the Perfect is a subtle aspect which is not to 
be confused with perfectivity. Perfect and Progressive may combine in one VG and are 
marked for present or past tense: 

Present + progressive is locking 

Past + progressive was locking 

Present perfect has locked 

Past perfect had locked 

Present perfect + progressive has been locking 
Past perfect + progressive had been locking 

As we saw in Chapter 8, progressive and perfect aspects also combine with modals, 
lexical auxiliaries and the passive. 



The basic function of the English progressive aspect is to indicate a dynamic action in 
the process of happening. Attention is focused on some internal stage of the process, 
which cognitively, is viewed as something directly observed, unfolding before our eyes. 
English makes a grammatical contrast between the progressive and the non-progressive. 
That is to say, there is an obligatory choice between viewing the situation as in the 
process of happening and viewing it as a complete whole: 

What was he doing? What did he do? 

(Past + progressive) (Past, non-progressive) 

There is more to grammatical aspect than obligatory choice, however. The best way to 
understand grammatical aspect is to see it working in conjunction with the lexical aspect 
of verbs. The Progressive (and, in a different way, the Perfect) add a communicative 
perspective to events and states that is different from their lexical aspect. 


As the Progressive is essentially dynamic in character, it lends a dynamic interpretation 
to whatever verbal action it is applied to. For this reason, not all types of verbal situation 
admit the Progressive, as in la, and those that do admit it are affected in different ways. 

43.5.1 States and the Progressive 

Most stative situations are in general incompatible with the progressive. Permanent 
qualities such as be tall, be red and relations expressed by such verbs as own, belong, seem 
are conceptualised in English as invariable and therefore non-dynamic. When normally 
stative verbs are used with the Progressive the situation is viewed as a temporary state, 
often with the implication of a type of behaviour or stance, as in lb. Compare: 

la *You are being tall, George, lb You are being far too optimistic, George. 

The stative meanings of verbs such as see, hear (involuntary perception), like, love, hate 
(affection) and know, believe, understand, wonder (cognition) are in general incompatible 
with the progressive. However, many such verbs have taken on dynamic uses and these 
admit the progressive, as in the following examples: 

I'm seeing the doctor tomorrow. (= consulting) (programmed event) 

Janet is seeing her friends off. (= taking leave of) 

They were seeing so much of each other, he was almost one of the family. 

How are you liking your visit to Disneyland? (= enjoying) 

Pat: Oh, I'm just loving it./ I'm enjoying it. Ben: Frankly, I'm hating it. 


43.5.2 Punctual occurrences and the Progressive 

With punctual verbs such as tap, kick, fire, sneeze, bounce, flash, hit and the progressive, 
the situation is interpreted as iterative, that is, repeated: 

Someone is tapping on the wall next door. 

The rain is hitting the windows harder now. [bnc FP6 296] 

These categories are approximate, rather than absolute. Some processes appear to 
be more punctual than others. Some end-points appear to be more final than others. 
It would, for instance, be unusual to hear He's slamming the door for it is not possible to 
keep on slamming the same door unless you keep on opening it. He kept slamming 
the door would imply this process, but would nonetheless be unusual. A multiple situa- 
tion in which several doors slammed can be expressed by the Past tense, as in the 

Behind the swing door, cupboards opened and slammed shut. Pots cracked against 
work tops. 

Punctual verbs are frequently used metaphorically with the progressive, in which case 
the resulting situation may perhaps be considered durative: 

The recession is hitting the stores hard, (^affecting adversely) [bnc abe 1784] 

43.5.3 Verbs with no end-point and the Progressive 

With those durative verbs that have no end-point (play, sing, work, talk, dance, rain, snow, 
etc.), including verbs of bodily sensation (ache, hurt, itch, feel cold), the Progressive has 
the effect of perspectivising the process as seen in progress by an observer (the 
speaker when the reference point is speech time, the relevant participant when it is in 
the past): 

Something very strange is going on here. 
That's what we were talking about. 

The contrast between the temporary, ongoing nature of the progressive as seen by an 
observer and unbounded duration expressed by the simple Past or Present is noticeable: 

Observed ongoing process Unbounded duration 

Lamps were glowing in the dark. Lamps glowed in the dark. 

Snow was falling gently. Snow fell gently. 

My back is aching. My back aches. 

Similarly, habitual events, when combined with the progressive, have limited duration. 
The use of the progressive implies a temporary situation, whereas the ordinary Present 
tense suggests greater permanence. Compare: 


She is running a fringe theatre group (over the summer holidays). 
She runs a fringe theatre group (as her permanent job). 

43.5.4 End-point-completion verbs and the Progressive 

With these bounded processes (e.g. die, heat up, recover) the effect of the progressive is 
to bring into our focus of attention the durative phase of the process before the end- 

He is dying from AIDS. [bnc AH2 12366] 

The atmosphere is heating up and the seas are rising. [bnc cer 55] 

Last night the 53-year-old father-of-two was recovering in intensive care. 

[BNC CH2 9805] 

Plurality can lead to an interpretation of multiple accomplishments. Arrive, with a 
singular subject, will be interpreted as a single event, the Progressive stretching 
the stage previous to the endpoint, as in Hurry! The taxi is arriving. With a plural sub- 
ject and the progressive, arrive will be interpreted as a series of arrivals: The guests are 

This effect is illustrated in the following passage about an autumn game of rugby: 

Autumn has come early in the north. The leaves are turning,^ the nights are drawing 
in 2 and the lustre has faded from the lakeside boathouses. On the playing-fields, 
smallish boys in red shirts are bending and hooking 3 in a scrum, before straightening 
up again to run, pass and tackle, try and kick, urged on by men with large knees 
and piercing whistles. Rain is starting to fall 4 as the last whistle of the day shrills out 
over the darkening field. 

'stretching out the process before the end-point (multiple Activities); 2 serial 
Accomplishments; 3 serial Activities; "stretching the phase of initiation of an Activity 
(this is a phased verbal group (see 39.2. 1 ) in which start to marks ingressive aspect) 


The Progressive presents an ongoing event as something directly observed in relation 
to some point in time. This is either explicitly mentioned, as in 1 and 2 or else inferred 
as coinciding with speech time, 3: 

1 By the end of January 1919 the main outlines of the peace settlement were 
emerging. (The Peacemakers) 

2 At half-past five, crowds were pouring into the subways. 

3 What are you doing? I'm switching on the answer-phone (coincides with speech 


Progressive aspect provides a frame within which another event takes place. That is 
to say, the time-frame of the progressive event includes the bounded event: 

We finally reach the supermarket and they are just dosing the doors. 

What was she wearing when she came to your house for her music lesson? 

(temporary state framing bounded event in simple past 'came') 
She was wearing her school uniform. She always wore it. (Elizabeth George) 

(temporary behavioural state contrasted with habitual ('wore') 

Two simple forms, by contrast, are normally interpreted as a sequence: 

We finally reach the supermarket and they close the doors. 
Crowds poured into the subways and boarded the trains. 

In the following text about a boat trip down the River Amazon, the Progressive is used 
to provide a frame for the details of the party related in the non-progressive past form. 

On the first evening of a 7-day-trip, I was sifting in the bow enjoying the cooling 
breeze and watching the sun go down. Soon a small crowd of Peruvian and Brazilian 
passengers and crew gathered, and a rum bottle and a guitar appeared. Within 
minutes we had a first-rate party going with singing, dancing, hand-clapping and 
an incredible impromptu orchestra. One of the crew bent a metal rod into a rough 
triangle which he pounded rhythmically, someone else threwa handful of beans into 
a can and started shaking, a couple of pieces of polished wood were clapped 
together to interweave yet another rhythm, a mouth harp was produced, I blew bass 
notes across the top of my beer bottle and everyone had a great time. A couple of 
hours of rhythmic music as the sun went down became a standard part of the ship's 
routine and gave me some of my most unforgettable moments of South American 

(Rob Rachowiecki, Peru: A travel survival kit) 


When these two aspects combine in one VG, the progressive brings into focus the 
continuous nature of the situation, whereas the Perfect leads the situation from an indefi- 
nite time in the past up to the present, usually to speech time. The possible situations 

a. continuous state lasting up to the present 

I have been wanting to meet him for ages. 

He has been hearing better since he got the hearing-aid. 


b. continuous habitual process 

The government has been spending beyond its means. [bnc aak 416] 

She has been going to therapy since she was about two. [bnc cas 1200] 

c. iterative ocurrence lasting up to the present 

You have been coughing since you got up. 

d. unbounded situations lasting up to the present 

We have been waiting here for some time. 

e. normally bounded situations become unbounded 

/ have been fixing the lamp. 

So people have been taping this talk? 

The non-progressive forms would remain bounded: I have fixed the lamp, So people have 
taped this talk? 

The Past Perfect Progressive combines the anteriority of the Past Perfect with the 
features of the Progressive: 

He had been seeing her quite a lot at that time. 

The unbounded result does not necessarily mean that the event was not completed; 
simply that the Perfect Progressive concentrates on the internal phase of the process. 


Progressiveness is considered here as a type of imperfectivity, or incompletion. Other 
types of imperfectivity include habituality and iterativity. Habituality is, as we have 
seen, expressed by both present and past tenses in English. Present tense uses are almost 
invariably imperfective, the only perfective uses being performatives (e.g. I promise not 
to be late) and the others classed as 'instantaneous present'. Past habit or state is 
expressed by the lexical auxiliary used to + infinitive as in the following examples. There 
is a strong pragmatic implication that the state or event no longer holds: 

He knew he used to speak too fast. 
We used to see each other quite often. 
There used to be trees all round this square. 

Used to avoids the temporal indeterminacy of the past tense (e.g. visited - on one 
occasion or on many occasions) by making clear the habitual. Compare: 

She visited us. (perfective or imperfective) 
She used to visit us. (imperfective only) 

Furthermore, although a time expression such as not any longer may be added, the 
implicit meaning of discontinued habit is so strong that an additional expression is 


'You're the ball player/ Danny said. 'The big-leaguer. You played with the 
Washington Senators.' 

'Used to. Don't play anymore.' 

(William Kennedy, Billy Phelan's Greatest Game) 

Used to + infinitive is not to be confused with be used to + -ing 'be accustomed to' + -ing 
as in: He is not used to working late hours. 

Iterativity is interpreted from the progressive with punctual verbs, and also from 
keep on/ continued -ing (kept on shouting) and from the phrasal verb particle away (he 
hammered away, As regards perfectivity, ingressive aspect focuses on the initial point of 
a situation and egressive aspect on the end-point. These are not expressed by inflections 
in English, but by combinations such as phased VGs (start to rain/raining) and phrasal 
verb particles (e.g. She came to, We ended up exhausted). 

Summary of certain aspectual distinctions realised in English 
in the lexico-grammar 

Prospective: I am going to write a note 

Immediate prospective: I am about to write a note 

Ingressive: I started to write a note 

Progressive: I am/was writing a note 

Iterative: I kept writing notes 

Habitual in the past: I used to write notes 

Egressive: Finish writing the note 

Retrospective, Recent Perfect: I have just written a note 

Retrospective, Perfect: I have written a note 






1 Modality is the semantic category by which speakers express two different kinds 
of attitude towards the event. 

2 One attitude is that of assessing the truth of the proposition or the potential 
occurrence of the event in terms of modal certainty, probability or possibility. 
This is epistemic (or extrinsic) modality as in The key must be here somewhere. 
It may be in your pocket. 

3 A different kind of attitude is expressed when speakers intervene in the speech 
event, by laying down obligations or giving permission. This is deontic (or 
intrinsic) modality as in You must go now; the others may stay. 

4 The modal auxiliaries (except can) in English express both types of modal 
meanings, which have in common the fact that they express the speaker's atti- 
tude to a potential event. Closely related to these meanings are those of ability 
and intrinsic possibility as in We can take the early train. This is known as 
dynamic modality. In addition, a number of other forms are available for the 
expression of particular modal meanings. 

5 All modal expressions are less categorical than a plain declarative. For this 
reason modality is said to express a relation to reality, whereas an 
unmodalised declarative treats the process as reality. 


From a semantic point of view, in making an assertion such as It's raining, speakers 
express a proposition and at the same time commit themselves to the factuality of that 
proposition. In ordinary subjective terms, we should say that speakers know that their 
assertion is a fact. 


If, on the other hand, speakers say It must be raining, or It may be raining, they are not 
making a categorical assertion, but are rather modifying their commitment in some 
degree by expressing certainty or possibility based on evidence or inference. It is 
paradoxical that as speakers we only express certainty when we are not sure about 
something. Compare: 

That's the First Lady over there, (categorical assertion) 

That must/ may/ can't be the First Lady over there, (modalised assertion) 

A different kind of modification is made when the speaker intervenes directly in the 
speech event itself, by saying, for example, / must leave now. You'd better come too. The 
rest of you may/ can stay. Here the issue is not about factuality but has to do with the 
actualising of a potential event. The speaker brings about an action, using modal expres- 
sions to lay down an obligation or give permission regarding the event. Basically, both 
types of modality are subjective: the speaker is involved. And by means of modality 
speakers are enabled to carry out two important communicative functions: 

to comment on and evaluate an interpretation of reality; 
to intervene in, and bring about changes in events. 

Modality is to be understood as a semantic category which covers such notions as pos- 
sibility, probability, necessity, volition, obligation and permission. These are the basic 
modalities. Certain other types of modality, not all speaker-based, will be mentioned 
in the following sections. In very general terms, modality may be taken to express a 
relation with reality, while a non-modal utterance treats the process as reality. 


Modality covers a broad semantic area and can be expressed by many forms. In English 
the syntactic class of modal auxiliaries (37.2) is the most central, and these will be 
our main concern in this chapter. Other modal realisations include the following: 

Other verbs expressing modal meanings: 

(a) The lexical-modal auxiliaries listed in 37.3 composed of be or have, usually 
another element + infinitive {have got to, be bound to, be likely to, etc.). 

(b) The semi-modals need and dare. 

(c) Lexical verbs such as allow, beg, command, forbid, guarantee, guess, promise, 
suggest, warn (discussed in 25.1 as performatives). 

(d) The verbs wonder and wish, which relate to non-factual meanings. 

• Other means of expressing modality: 

(e) Modal adverbs such as probably, possibly, certainly, hopefully, thankfully, 

(f) Modal adjectives such as possible, probable, likely, used in impersonal con- 
structions such as He is likely to win or as part of a nominal group, as in a likely 
winner of this afternoon's race or the most probable outcome of this trial. 


(g) Modal nouns such as possibility, probability, chance, likelihood, as in There's just 

a chance that he may win. 
(h) The use of the past tense to indicate remoteness from reality, as in / thought I'd 

go along with you, if you don't mind. Similarly, the past form in the closed 

conditional, as in 'If you went, I would go too.' 
(i) Parentheticals such as / think, I guess. 

These other diverse forms and uses serve to provide a contextual frame for the 
more central meanings and exponents of modality. Here we take modality to be basically 
the expression of possibilities, probabilities, certainty, obligations and permission, 
as expressed by modal auxiliaries. These, together with the lexical-modal auxiliaries, 
are the most basic exponents of modality in English. 

The other modal elements tend to reinforce the modal meaning, as in the example: 
I'm sure she couldn 't possibly have said that. This is called modal harmony and illustrates 
the way in which modality can be expressed not simply at one point in an utterance, by 
a modal auxiliary, but at different points right throughout the clause. 

Modal harmony is exemplified in this short extract from a novel by Richard Gordon, 
in which George expresses his doubts about his future as a doctor. 

'Dad -' George shifted his feet. 'I wonder^ if I'm really suited 2 for medicine.' 'Of 
course you are,' his father told him briefly. 'We've had medical men in this family 
since the days of Gladstone bags and leeches. I wish you'd 3 follow the example of 
your sister. She will 4 certainly be 5 studying upstairs with her usual diligence. And 
what, might 6 I ask, would 7 you intend 3 to do instead?' 
'I've thought of the - er, drama.' 

'lexical modal verb; Conditional clause expressing doubt; 3 lexical modal verb + 
hypothetical would; A will of prediction; 5 modal adverb, 'ironical use of might = 
requesting permission; 'hypothetical would; lexical verb of intention 


These three options represent the three degrees of confidence, or lack of it, that the 
speaker feels towards the factuality of the proposition expressed. 

44.3. 1 Modal certainty: will, must, be bound to 

What we call modal certainty is not the hundred per cent certainty of a categorical 
assertion. An unmodalised declarative constitutes a stronger statement of fact than any 
additional expression of certainty can. If, for instance, George's father had said 'Your 
sister is studying upstairs', this is a stronger statement of fact than 'Your sister will 


certainly be studying upstairs', in which he expresses a strong assumption, reinforced 
by certainly. 

Modal certainty is, therefore, diminished certainty, chosen either because the speaker's 
state of knowledge has not permitted a plain assertion or because the speaker does not 
want to express strong commitment at a given moment in a particular interpersonal 
interaction, perhaps for reasons of politeness (see Chapter 5). 

With modal certainty expressed by will and must, the speaker does not accept any 
possibility of the proposition not being true. For this reason adding but it may not be to 
1 and 2 would result in a contradiction. 

1 The concert will be over by now. 

2 The concert must be over. 

Assumption or prediction: will 

Will expresses a confident assumption by the speaker as observer, based on experience, 
known facts or what is usually the case. It can be glossed by 'I assume that . . .', as in 3. 

3 Her mother will know her age. (I assume that her mother knows her age.) 

When the orientation frame is past time, as in a narrative, would is used, as in 4. It is 
not limited to future occurrences, but can refer to present time. 

4 He would be about sixty when I first met him. (I assume that he was about sixty) 

Will can also be used to refer to future time, expressing a modal judgement or prediction, 
as in 5 and 6. (See also 27.5 and 44.7 for will and must as committing the speaker to a 
future action. See 41.6 for other means of referring to future events.) 

Predictive shall is much less common than will. It is used by some speakers for the 
1st person singular and plural, as in 7, and is usually contracted to '//(/'//, we'll), negative 
shan't in spoken English: 

5 It won't work. (I predict that it won 't work) 

6 Scotland will be dry tomorrow with a fair amount of cloud. 

7 I must have an early night, otherwise I shall (I'll) be worn out tomorrow. 

Logical necessity: must 

The second type of modal certainty is that of 'logical necessity' meaning 'it is necessarily 
the case that x is true'. Must is the modal most used in BrE and is usually subjective, 
expressing strong conviction based on deduction or inference from evidence, which 
may or may not be stated. The concert must be over might be said, for instance, if the 
speaker sees that the lights are off or the concert hall is closed. The lexical-modal have 
to 2 is relatively uncommon in BrE with the epistemic meaning of logical necessity, but 
it is now used by some speakers as an alterntive to epistemic must 1. In AmE, have to 
or have got to is generally preferred to must in the meaning of logical necessity. A strict 


meaning of logical necessity ('this is the only possibility there is') is objective in 4. There 
is little difference in meaning between the modal and the non-modalised declarative in 
4, while this is not the case in the subjective uses. 

1 The key must be in your pocket. 

2 The key has to be in your pocket. 

3 The key is bound to be/ is sure to be in your pocket. 

4 If Jane is Pat's sister and Jill is Jane's daughter, Pat must be Jill's aunt. 

44.3.2 Probability or 'reasonable inference': should, ought 

A medium degree of conviction is expressed by should and the less common ought. A 
driver might say, studying a map 'It should be easy to reach York from here', glossed 
as 'I assume it is easy' or 'it is probably easy'. Here we have the notion of probability, 
or what is reasonable to expect, based on deduction from facts known to the speaker. 
The main semantic feature distinguishing these modals from must is that they implicitly 
admit non-fulfilment of the predicated event, whereas must and will do not. We can say 
It should be easy to reach York, but of course it may not be, but not *It must be easy to 
reach York, but of course it may not be. Should and ought are said to be 'non-factive', that 
is not binding, as opposed to will and must which are 'factive' or binding. They can be 
illustrated as follows: 

Dinner shouldbe ready. You mustbe hungry after such a long journey. 

Similarly, with past time reference, made by have + -en, should and ought imply 
probability, but can be contradicted. Will and must, because of their strong epistemic 
commitment, do not make this implication and can't be contradicted by the speaker. 

He should have reached York by now (but Pat has rung to say he hasn't). 
He will/ must have reached York by now (*but Pat has rung to say he hasn't). 

The probability meaning of should and ought is often merged with that of non- 
binding obligation (see 44.5.4), as in The hotel should be good for this price, i.e. one 
would expect it to be good/it has the obligation to be good. Likely and likelihood, with 
the corresponding negative forms unlikely and unlikelihood, unambiguously express 

All flights are likely to be delayed. 
There's no likelihood of frost tonight. 

44.3.3 Extrinsic possibility: may, might, could 

Weaker conviction is expressed as the possibility of an event occurring or being true. 
English speakers make use of the modal auxiliaries may, might and could, the latter 


particularly in the media. These are all stressed and can be glossed by 'it is possible 
that x': 

They may be real pearls, you know. 
They might be real pearls, you know. 
They could be real pearls, you know. 

All three expressions mean 'It is possible that they are real pearls'. We can see that might 
and could, although historically past forms, don't in such cases refer to past time, but to 
present states of affairs. They can also be used to refer to future events: 

It may/ might/ could snow tonight. (= it is possible that it will snow tonight) 

Can is not used in positive declarative clauses that express extrinsic ('epistemic') 
possibility. We do not say *They can be real pearls *It can snow tonight. 

Degrees of confidence 

It is not easy to claim with certainty that may, might and could represent points on a 
scale of confidence or, in other words, that one or other of these modals expresses either 
a stronger or a more remote possibility. They can all be intensified by (very) well, which 
heightens the possibility, and by just, which lowers it: 

They may/ might/ could very well be real pearls. 
They just may /might/ could be real pearls. 

The following examples, 1 from spoken English, 2 from written, illustrate how the three 
can be used in one utterance: 

1 I may be a few minutes late; it might be seven o'clock before I can get away; it 
could even be half-past. 

2 The provision mightbe deleted altogether; it may remain as it stands; or it could 
emerge considerably strengthened and broadened. 

In these examples the three modals are interchangeable, with little difference to the 
message. Factors such as speakers' age and social dialect, and the degree of formality 
or informality of the situation, undoubtedly influence the choice of modal. We suggest 
that may is more formal and indicates reserve, might being now the more neutral form, 
especially with younger speakers, while could expresses tentative possibility. 



Modal auxiliaries expressing extrinsic meanings correlate with the following features: 

existential Subject 

be + -ing 

stative main verb 

dynamic main verb 

lexical auxiliary 

past reference by have + -en 

There may be trouble ahead 

She might be waiting 

It might be cold 

I might leave early 

It might have to be abandoned 

He might have left by now 

When we refer to past events by the extrinsic modals, the modal meaning of prediction, 
certainty, possibility or probability is not itself past; the speaker carries out the act of 
predicting, or whatever in present time. Pastness is realised by the have + -en perfect 
form attached to the main verb, as in / may have made a mistake. It must have got lost. 
They will have finished. 

44.4.1 Summary of extrinsic modal and lexical-modal auxiliaries 
and their meanings 

He will be there by now. 

I shall probably be back before you 
He must be there by now. 

He can't be there yet. 
He's bound to be there. 
He has to be there by now. 
He's likely to be there by now. 
He should be there by now. 
He could be there by now. 
He might be there by now. 
He may be there by now. 
He may be intelligent, but he's a bit 
of a prat. 

(assumption/prediction based on 
experience or common sense) 


(logical necessity, deduction based on 

(logical necessity negated) (see 44.5.3) 

(modal certainty + inevitability) 

(logical necessity, objective) 


(reasonable inference based on deduction) 

(tentative possibility) 

(neutral possibility) 

(weak possibility) 

(concessive meaning of may) 

For lexical auxiliaries, modal idioms and modal auxiliaries in VG sequences, see Chapter 
8. For backshifted modals in reported speech, see 36.3. 


Functionally, these modal meanings are used to establish and maintain social relations 
and interaction. Through them, speakers influence and control others, and commit them- 
selves to certain courses of action. They may bring about changes in their surroundings 
by obligations which are met, permissions given, promises kept and so on. 


Semantically, the modal utterance forms part of the linguistic event, and the speaker 
intervenes in the action. 

Syntactically, we find the following correlates: 

(a) Unstressed 'there' is rare as Subject, which is typically a human Agent controlling 
the main verb. 

(b) The main verb is usually dynamic. 

(c) With past time reference, must and may express obligation/ permission that 
took place in past time and is expressed, not by have + -en, but by forms of other 

Present Past 

I must go. I had to go. 

They may go. They were allowed to go. 

44.5.1 Volition: willingness and intention will, shall, 'II 

The concept of volition covers the meanings of willingness as in Will you sign this for 
me? and intention as in I'll bring it back tomorrow. The negative form is will not/ won 't. 


This can be paraphrased by be willing to. The action predicated by the main verb can 
coincide with speech time, or refer to repeated or future events: 

Will you give a donation to the Wildlife Society? - Yes, I will. 

The key won't go in the lock, (speaker attributes unwillingness to an inanimate thing) 

As in these examples, will is used for all persons. The reduced form 11 occurs in the 
affirmative, except when stressed to express insistence, which requires the full form, as 
in I WILL do it. 

The meaning of willingness, realised by will, readily lends itself to various prag- 
matic uses. For instance, will would be interpreted as a directive in Will you listen to 
me and stop interrupting? and as a polite offer in Will you have another slice of melon? (See 
Chapter 5.) 

In interrogatives shall is used with a 1st person subject to consult the addressee's 
wishes or ask for advice. This is the most widespread use of shall in present-day 

Shall we go back home now? (= Do you want us to . . .?) 


This can be glossed by intend to. When a speaker expresses an intention, the intention 
is, naturally, coincident with speech time, but the intended action is in the future: 


I'll ring you sometime next week. 
I think 17/ just tape this bit of opera. 

Will is used for all persons, shall by some speakers for the 1st person singular and 

The speaker's commitment in using these modals is as strong as in the extrinsic 
meanings. For this reason the will of intention can have the force of either a promise or 
a threat, according to whether the intended action is beneficial to the addressee or 
otherwise. These interpretations are reinforced by the addition of such verbs as promise 
and warn: 

17/ bring you something back from Paris, I promise. 

I warn you that if you keep talking this way I shall hang up. 

The full form shall is also used with a 2nd or 3rd person subject with the meaning of 
speaker's guarantee, as in you /they shall be paid tomorrow. 


Inescapable obligation: must, have to, have got to/ 
gotta, shall 

In English, obligation and necessity can be thought of as an inescapable duty or 
requirement, realised by must, have (got) to and, in a lesser degree, by shall; or else, simply 
as an advisable course of action, realised by should and ought. Must can have the force 
of a command. 

Must as a modal of obligation 

When realised by must, obligation can have the force of a direct command, as in 1 and 
2, although modal lexical verbs are more explicit. Compare You must go with / order you 
to go, I urge you to go. 

1 You must try harder. 

2 You must copy this out again. 

This force derives from the fact that (a) in certain cultural contexts such as school, family, 
the Armed Forces, the speaker has authority over the addressee, who is the subject 
'you'; (b) the speaker takes the responsibility for the action being carried out; and 
(c) the verb is agentive and in active voice. 

The force of must is diminished if one or more of these factors is modified, provid- 
ing useful strategies to mitigate the directness of the obligation, although not its 

/ must catch the last bus without fail, (subject is /, the obligation is internal) 
Drug-traffickers must be punished. (3rd person subject; authority does not reside 

in the speaker; passive voice) 
Applications must be in by May 1st. (non-agentive verb; passive; 3rd person subject) 


When no human control is implied, the meaning is that of intrinsic necessity, as in: 

Lizards must hibernate if they are to survive the winter. (= it is necessarily the case 

The following news item 'Killing with a Kiss' from The Sunday Times of India illustrates 
the inescapable obligation of intrinsic must: 

Medics were on standby as 53 couples locked their lips on Saturday at the start of 
a bid to set a new world record for the longest kiss. 

The couples will need to kiss non-stop for more than 29 hours and 57 minutes to 
make it into the Guinness Book of Records. The Valentine weekend attempt was 
organised by a local radio station, which advertised for participants to take part in 
the competition at Newcastle, Sydney. 

To break the record, participants must follow strict rules, station spokeswoman 
Tricia Morris said. "Their lips must be touching at all times, they musf be standing, 
they musf not fall asleep, musf nof leave the venue, mustn't wear any incontinence 
pads or adult nappies and there are no toilet breaks," Morris said. 

Shall, have to, have got to, gotta as modals of obligation 

Of all the modals of obligation shall is the most imperious, direct and subjective, and 
for this reason is little used in the spoken language. It occurs in legal language and other 
formal contexts, as in the regulations of the Olympic Games 1, 

Of the lexical-modals, have to is objective (the obligation is external) and have got 
fo/gotta subjective (the obligation is internal). Compare 2 and 3. 

Syntactically, have to, unlike must and have got to, has non-finite forms having to, to 
have to. Both have to and have got to have a past form had (got) to. Only have to can 
combine with the modal auxiliaries (may have to, *may have got to). 

Must has no past form as it is, historically, itself a past form. Forms of have to are 
therefore brought in to express past and future obligation 4. 

1 All competitors in the Games shall wear a number. 

2 I've got to go now. (I gotta go now) (the obligation is internal) 

3 I have to go and see the Dean, (the obligation is external) 

4 We had to pay in advance. We'// have to pay in advance, (external) 

44.5.3 Negation of the modals must and may 

Negation of the modal verbs must and may is complex because either the modal concept 
(in the 'a' examples) or the lexical concept (in the 'b' examples) can be negated. 


I. obligation and permission (intrinsic meanings) 




You must go now a, 

You may go now a 


You needn't go now 

You don't have to go now 

You must not (mustn't) go 

You may not/ can't go 
You may/ can not go 

i you are not obliged to go 
i you are not obliged to go 
i you are obliged not to go 

i you have not permission to go 
i you have permission not to go 

2. necessity and possibility (extrinsic meanings) 




It must be true 

a It can't be true 

= It is not possible that it is true 

b, It needn't be true 

= It is not necessarily true 

b. It doesn't have to be true 

= It's not necessarily true 

It may be true 

(a) It can't be true 

= It is not possible that it is true 

(b) It may not be true 

■ It is possible that it is not true 

When might and could express possibility, they negate in the same way as may, with 
replacement by can't for modal negation and not to negate the lexical verb. 

Need not (needn 't) is often replaced by the objective form doesn 't/don 't have to in both 
kinds of modal meaning, the extrinsic and the intrinsic. Have to is also used by many 
speakers in the interrogative: Do you have to go now? for Need you go now?, especially in 
the meaning of obligation. Questioning is less common with meanings of possibility and 
necessity, for example: Does it have to be true? 

Mustn 't is usually reserved for the obligation meaning of must, for example, We mustn 't 
forget to ask Sue to water the plants (= obligation not to forget). 

May in its meaning of permission does not have a full set of unambiguous forms: you 
may not go serves for both modal and lexical negation. The meaning 'you have permision 
not to go' can be conveyed by stressing the negative particle not - You may not go, if 
you like. 

Can and can 't have replaced may/ may not in the expression of permission except in 
the most formal contexts. 

Can't, needn't and don't have to negate and question the modal concept. When the 
lexical concept is negated, this is achieved by not, which can be attached as n't to must 
(mayn't is not normally used). 

Can 't is the usual form used to negate must (necessity) and may (possibility). 


44.5.4 Non-binding obligation: should, ought 

Should and ought express a medium obligation, which is not binding and may be 

People should drive more carefully. 

You really ought to cut down on smoking. 

These modals are used instead of the stronger must when the speaker lacks authority 
to impose the obligation. Tact, politeness or a lack of conviction of the absolute necessity 
of the predicated action are further motivations. The following invented advertisement 
clearly distinguishes the necessary from the merely desirable: 

Candidates must be university graduates. 

Candidates must be between 21 and 35. 

Candidates should have a knowledge of two foreign languages. 

Candidates should have at least three years' experience. 

Referring to a past event, with should and ought + have + -en, the speaker implies that 
the obligation was not fulfilled. Ought is less common than should nowadays. Be supposed 
to is similar to should and ought in being contrary to fact: 

He ought to have been more careful. 

The Government should have taken a decision earlier. 

They were supposed to be here by eight, but most people turned up at half-past. 


A. Can, could 

Dynamic modality expresses properties or dispositions of the subject referent. The three 
related meanings are expressed by can, negative cannot, can't 

This paint can be applied with a (= It is possible to apply this paint . . ./for 

spray. this paint to be applied . . .) (dynamic 

Can you reach the top shelf? (= Are you able to reach . . .?) (ability) 

You can't park here (= You are not allowed to park here) 

(intrinsic permission) 

It is important to distinguish dynamic possibility, which is expressed by can and is 
paraphrased by 'It is possible to . . .'or 'It is possible for . . . to . . ., from extrinsic 
possibility, which is expressed by may, might or could, and is paraphrased by 'It is 
possible that . . .'. Compare: 


I can be there by 10 o'clock. (= It is possible for me to be there by 

10 o'clock) 
I may/might be there by 10 o'clock. (= It is possible that I'll be there by 

10 o'clock) 

8. Will and would: propensity 

This is a dynamic meaning which involves a property or a propensity of the subject 
referent. From our knowledge of how the world is structured, we are able to predict not 
only single instances (see p. 382) but regular occurrences, using will. Would is used in 
a past time-frame: 

Ice will melt at room temperature. (Ice has the property to melt . . .) 

They'll gossip for hours. (They have a tendency to gossip for hours) 

They would gossip for hours, sitting in the park. (They tended to gossip . . .) 

Heavy stress on will and would is emotive and can suggest that the propensity is not 
welcome to the speaker: 

He WILL ring up late at night asking silly questions. 

Dynamic would in narrative is illustrated in the following passage by James Thurber: 
With the lexical-modal be apt to, propensity shades into usuality, since it is based on the 
natural habits or tendency of the subject. It refers to repeated states or happenings, as 
in He's apt to turn up for dinner without warning. 

When Grandpa got to his office, he would put his hat on his desk. ... It was a device 
of his to get away from bores or talkative friends. As the door opened, he would 
automatically reach for his derby, and if it was somebody he didn't want to see, he 
would rise and say, 'I'm sorry, but I was just about to leave.' He would then walk 
to the street with his visitor, find out which way the man was going, and set off in 
the opposite direction, walking around the block and entering the store by the back 

C. The core meaning of can - You can't do that 

The meanings expressed by can all correspond to a basic pattern, which in its positive 
form can be expressed as 'nothing prevents x from occurring' and in its negative form 
as 'something prevents x from occurring'. That 'something' in each case represents a 
set of laws, whether natural laws, moral laws, laws of physics, of good manners, and 
perhaps many more. For this reason, an utterance such as You can't do that will be 
interpreted in different ways according to the context in which it occurs, and depending 
on which set of laws applies in a particular case: 


You can't do that = It's not possible for you to do that, e.g. walk from Genoa 

to Tangier. 
You can't do that = You are not able to do that, e.g. lift such a heavy box. 
You can't do that = You are not allowed to do that, e.g. park your car in the 

You can't do that = social norms prevail against doing that, e.g. infringe local 


As the possibility and ability to carry out an action is a necessary requirement for a 
person to perform that action, can lends itself to various pragmatic interpretations by 

willingness I can get the copies for you, if you like, 

command If you won't keep quiet, you can get out. 

request Can you help me lift this sofa? 

existential It can be very cold in Edinburgh in winter. 

D. May (negative may not] - You may go now 

May is a more formal alternative to can in the meanings of permission and dynamic 
possibility, and is extended to such meanings as polite offer. 

May I come in? Yes, you may. (request for permission and giving permission) 

In spring, wild orchids may be found in the woods, (possibility = it is possible to 

find . . .) 
May I help you with the luggage? (polite offer) 

Might is sometimes used for an indirect request: 

You might fetch me a bottle of tonic water and a bag of crisps. 

E. The past of can is could or was/were able + to-infinitive 

depending on whether an imperfective or perfective meaning is intended. With be able 
a single, predicated action is achieved, that is to say, it is seen as holistic, perfective; 
with could, the action is viewed as extended in the past, that is, as imperfective: 

From the top of the hill we could see for miles. 

He was able to escape in time, (not *He could escape in time) 

This distinction is obligatory only in the affirmative and the interrogative. In the negative, 
could and be able to are interpreted as having the same result and are therefore 

He wasn't able to escape. He couldn't escape. 



Apart from their other meanings, the past tense modals could, might, would can be used 
in a 'remote' or hypothetical sense in both main and subordinate clauses. Compare: 

I will help you if I can. I would help you if / could. 

She may pass if she works hard. She might pass if she worked harder. 

To refer to a past event have + -en is used. The event is understood to be contrary to 

I would have helped you if I had been able to. 

She would/ might have passed if she had worked harder. 

Should is also used, especially in BrE, as the replacement of a subjunctive in referring 
to states of affairs that may exist or come into existence (see also Chapter 3): 

It is only natural that they should want a holiday. 
I am amazed that he should think it's worth trying. 

44.7.1 Summary of intrinsic modals and modal meanings 

Will you sign here? (willingness) 

Shall we go to the theatre? (suggestion/consulting addressee) 

I'll let you know tomorrow (intention) 

You must try harder (inescapable obligation, subjective) 

You have to try harder (inescapable obligation, objective) 

We must go; we've got to/ gotta go (inescapable obligation, self-imposed) 

You needn't go; you don't have to go (absence of obligation) 

All competitors shall wear a number (inescapable obligation, formal) 

You should drive more carefully (medium obligation, not necessarily fulfilled) 

You can do it (ability, possibility, or informal permission) 

It can be cold in Edinburgh (existential) 

You may go now (permission, formal) 

You can go now (permission, informal) 

I would help you if I could (hypothetical) 

The following extract from a novel by David Lodge illustrates some of the realisations 
of modal meanings in English. It is noticeable that the dialogue, in which members of a 
family debate possible courses of action, contains more modals than the narrative part: 

Their Dad would be coming ] home the next day and they would 2 have to 3 look after 

him until he was too ill to stay out of hospital. The question was, should" he be told? 

'How long . . .?' somebody wondered. 5 The doctor hadn't been specific. A matter 


of months rather than weeks. One could 6 never be sure. 'Who would 7 tell him?' 'I 
couldn't. I just couldn't,' 8 said their mother and wept. 'I would,'' said Angela, 'if we 
agreed that was the right thing to do.' 'Why tell him?' said the youngest sister. 'It 
would* just be cruel.' 'But if he asks . . .' said another. 'Are you going to u lie to 
your own Dad?' 

Tom lit a cigarette and blew smoke from his nostrils. A grey haze from previous 
cigarettes hung in the air. All the men in the family were heavy smokers, perhaps 
because cigarettes had always been readily available. No reference was made by 
anyone to this as the likely* 2 cause of their father's disease. 

'I see no reason to tell Dad yet,' Tom said at length. 'We should* 3 try to keep him 
as cheerful as possible.' 

Their mother looked at Tom gratefully, but fearfully. 'But he must* 4 have time to 
. . . receive the last . . . sacraments and everything,' she faltered. 

'Of course, Mum, but there's no need* 5 to rush these things. Let's make him as 
happy as we can for the rest of his days.' 

'past time prediction; 2 past time prediction; Obligation; "advisability; 5 doubt; 
intrinsic possibility; 'willingness; incapability; 'willingness; ' "hypothetical; 
"intention; "probability; "advisability; "inescapable obligation; ,5 lack of necessity/ 


On tense Brazil (1995), Comrie (1985); and aspect Comrie (1976), Givon (2001a), 
Kravchenko (2002), Langacker (1991); on situation types Huddleston and Pullum (2002), 
Mourelatos (1981); on Perfect aspect McCoard (1978); Stoevsky (2000); on modality 
Coates (1983); Palmer (1988); Huddleston and Pullum (2002). 


Viewpoints on events: Tense, aspect and modality 
Module 41 

1 Discussion: To what extent do the Present and Past tenses of English correspond to present 
and past time? 

2 jldentify the Present tense verb in each sentence as a state or an event. If an event, is it 
instantaneous, habitual, 'historic', past referring, reporting or quotative? 

(1 ) They cycle to work on a tandem most days. 

(2) Ignorance is bliss. 

(3) I had just got off the bus when up comes this guy and asks me for a light. 


(4) And he's like 'But she looks just like a little kid.' 

(5) Finally, I plug in and press the button. 

(6) Wounded tell of terror march. 

(7) Many believe that violence on television is partly the cause of violence in real life. 

(8) Clinical tests prove conclusively that untreated gum disease leads to tooth loss. 

3 Turn to the article on Pete the burglar on p. 357. Discuss the function type of the Present 
tense in: (a) the writer's narrative and (b) Pete's quoted words. 

4 Write a description, using the Present tense, of some piece of equipment that you find 
useful, for instance an answer-phone, a mobile phone, or a personal computer. 

5 tDecide which is more meaningful, the Past or the Perfect, in the sentences below and 
write the correct form of the verb (given in brackets) below. Give reasons for your choice: 

(1) We (set off) early and (leave) the car by the bridge. 

(2) 'I (get) it,' he shouted, 'I think I really (get) it.' 

(3) During his short lifetime, he (compose) some of the most beautiful 

organ music of his time. 

(4) How many plays Shakespeare (write)? 

(5) I (wake up) late this morning and (have) any breakfast yet. 

(6) What. you (say) your name (be)? 

(7) you (come) for a work permit, or for something else? 

(8) When your son (qualify) as a doctor? 

(9) the children (like) the circus? 

(10) I'm afraid there (be) a mistake. You (put, passive) in 

the wrong group. 

Module 42 

1 Discussion: Compare the uses and implications of the Present Perfect in English with those 
of its counterpart in any other language you know. 

2 tDiscuss the difference in meaning between the use of Past tense and Perfect aspect in 
the following sentences. What pragmatic inferences would be made to establish the 
psychological link between past and present time in the case of the Perfect uses? 

(1) (a) His last film set a new standard in horror and violence. 

(b) His latest film has set a new standard in horror and violence. 

(2) (a) I was a colleague of hers, working in the same Department, for several years, 
(b) I have been a colleague of hers, working in the same Department, for several 


(3) (a) How far did you get? 
(b) How far have you got? 

(4) (a) Where did you go? 

(b) Where have you been? 














What did you do? 

What have you done? 

She made a fool of herself in public. 

She has made a fool of herself in public. 

Mobile phones suddenly became popular. 

Mobile phones have suddenly become popular. 

That report that I gave you has a couple of serious errors. 

That report that I've just given you has a couple of serious errors. 

3 tTurn to the William Boyd text on p. 367. You will see that the dates make explicit the 
exact relationships in some cases of the Past Perfect. Change the first was to is and examine 
carefully the effect on the rest of the verb forms. Justify your decision to make or not to 
make changes in the verb forms. 

4 tin each numbered section from the following short news item from The Week, identify the 
verb forms as Past, Present or Present Perfect (there is also one modal). Do you find any 
of the following types or uses: habitual, reported, quotative? 

Padma Lakshmi feels she is famous for all the wrong things 1 . . . She has always 
wanted to be an actress 2 but she gets distracted by alternative careers: first as a 
model, then as a presenter on Italian television and next as a celebrity chef in 
America. 3 In Britain, she's most famous as the girlfriend of novelist Salman Rushdie. 4 
This, in particular, drives her mad. 5 "I would like to be known for myself," she says. 6 
"Like today, in the paper I read something that said, 'Rushdie's girlfriend Padma 
Lakshmi,' 7 and I thought 8 'Oh, when is this going to end?' 9 If s terrible because, of 
course, I love him, so of course I'm proud of him, 10 and he's achieved so much" and 
blah, blah, blah, but I'm like, 12 'When is it my turn?' 13 

Module 43 

1 tDiscussion: Comment on the aspectual meaning of the past tense in: His rubber-soled 
shoes squeaked on the vinyl floor. Does it refer to one occurrence or more? 

2 tDecide whether the situation expressed in each sentence below is bounded (with an 
end-point) or unbounded (without an end-point). 

(1 ) They dumped their bags on the floor. 

(2) They are negotiating with the Chinese to buy a panda. 

(3) The west wind blows constantly across the beaches of Almeria. 

(4) The cat pounced on the unwary mouse. 

(5) Snow fell gently on the city streets. 

(6) He dragged himself along the road. 

(7) A man in a pin-striped suit stepped off the bus. 

(8) He slipped the pen into his pocket. 


(9) The sofa cast a shadow on the wall. 
(10) She handed me the paper bag containing the mushrooms. 

3 tPut the main verb in each of the sentences below into the Progressive, and say what kind 
of meaning ensues: 

(1) Paul drove us home. 

(2) Sue crossed the street when she saw us. 

(3) The children jumped up and down with excitement. 

(4) I have tried to trace an old friend who lives in an unfamiliar town. 

(5) Peter sees the Health Officer tomorrow. 

(6) A big fire crackled in the grate. 

(7) They photographed the trail of footprints around the pool. 

(8) I shiver and cough. 

(9) The police car pulled up in front of the hotel. 

(10) The doctor bent over the man who lay on the ground. 

Module 44 

1 Discussion: Modals in context: Do the modals in the following three short texts have intrinsic 
or extrinsic meanings? Give a gloss of each to help you decide. 

(a) 'He surrounds himself with people that want to win. He taught me to win at all costs. 
Quite simple. Musfwin. No secret to it. But you have to manage your way because 
if you fail, it's you that's done it.' [He refers to Sir Alex Ferguson, the manager of 
Manchester United] 

(b) Motorists who use their mobile phones at the wheel are to face fines of up to a 
thousand pounds from this December. But the real question may be whether these 
fines can or could be enforced. 

(c) You could be exceptionally bright and super-competent so far as brain work and 
the thought processes are concerned. The trouble could be that you put all this 
mental efficiency into unimportant, instead of worthwhile, issues. (Horoscope) 

2 tSupply the modal verb which corresponds to the paraphrase in each case. In some cases 
more than one form is acceptable: 

(1) I let you know as soon as 1 have any news, (intention, promise) 

(2) We get away until the end of August. (It will not be possible for us 

to get away.) 

(3) There be something burning. I can smell it. (It is necessarily the case 

that . . . ) 

(4) The banks be closed at this time of day. (prediction) 

(5) You have forgotten your house keys! (It's not possible that you have 


(6) This 1 2-can pack of beer be enough, (probability, reasonable 



(7) Because of his wide experience, he to find an acceptable solution. 

(ability, past) 

(8) That young man be our next Prime Minister. (It is possible that . . .) 

(9) You not feed the animals at the zoo. (You are under the obligation 

not to . . .) 

(10) You (not) tip the waiter. (It is not necessary that you tip the waiter.) 

3 tChange the modalised verb form in each sentence below to the past. Make any 
adjustments necessary to tenses or adverbs, for instance, in the rest of the sentence. 

(1 ) They will not wait for us more than ten minutes. 

(2) He must be mistaken about his daughter's age. 

(3) You can't be listening to what I'm saying. 

(4) Ben should take two tablets every day this week. 

(5) Lying in our tent, we can hear the wind howling down from the heights. 

(6) With their fast patrol-boats, the police can capture drug-traffickers operating in the 

(7) There may be a hold-up on the motorway this afternoon. 

(8) / must have the baby vaccinated. 

(9) He will telephone us immediately if he can. 

(10) They oughtn't to be talking while the pianist is playing. 

4 Study the following extract from an article by Angela Carter in Nothing Sacred, about her 
memories of her parents. The occasion is a visit to her father's new home, after her mother's 

My father had lined the walls of his new home with pictures of my mother when she 
was young and beautiful; and beautiful she certainly was, with a broad, Slavonic 
jaw and high cheekbones like Anna Karenina, she took a striking photograph and 
had the talent for histrionics her pictures imply. They used to row dreadfully and pelt 
one another with household utensils, whilst shrieking with rage. Then my mother 
would finally break down and cry, possibly tears of sheer frustration that he was 
bigger than she, and my father, in an ecstasy of remorse - we've always been very 
good at remorse and its manifestations in action, emotional blackmail and irrational 
guilt - my father would go out and buy her chocolates. 

Analyse the tenses and aspects used by the writer in this lively evocation of her parents. 
For instance, which tense does the author use to describe her mother? Do the verbs in this 
part of the article refer to states, repeated actions or events in the past? 

Which forms does the writer make use of to describe her parents' life together? With 
which tense-aspect form does the author establish a psychological link between past and 
present time, with regard to certain family characteristics? 




The Nominal Group 

Module 45: Expressing our experience of people and things 401 

45.1 Classes of entities 401 

45.2 Overview: The structure of the nominal group 403 

45.3 The head element 1 : common nouns 405 

45.4 Regular and irregular plurals 405 

45.5 Countability: Count and non-count nouns 405 

45.5.1 Grammatical features of countability 406 

45.5.2 Selected classes of non-count nouns 407 

45.5.3 Countability markers of non-count referents 409 

45.6 The head element 2: proper nouns 410 

45.7 The head element 3: pronouns 41 1 

45.7.1 Personal pronouns and reflexive pronouns 411 

45.7.2 The pronouns this and that 414 

45.7.3 The discourse function of pronouns 415 

45.7.4 Substitute one/ones 416 

Module 46: Referring to people and things as definite, 

indefinite, generic 417 

46.1 Definite and indefinite reference 417 

46.2 Indefinite reference: specific and non-specific 418 

46.3 Indefinite proper nouns 419 

46.4 Definite reference 419 

46.5 Discourse functions of definite and indefinite nominal groups 420 

46.6 Generic reference 421 

Module 47: Selecting and particularising the referent: the 

determiner 423 

47.1 The determiner function 423 

47.2 Demonstrative and possessive determinatives 424 

47.2.1 Functions of the 's phrase 425 

47.2.2 Possessives as nominal group heads 426 

47.3 Wh-determinatives: which, whose, what 426 

47.4 Quantifiers 427 

47.4.1 Indefinite quantifiers 427 

47.4.2 Distributors: all, both, either, neither, each, every 429 

47.5 The semi-determinatives: such, what, certain, same, (anjother, former, latter 431 

47.6 Summary of determinative features 432 

47.7 Ordering of determinatives 434 

Module 48: Describing and classifying the referent: the 

pre-modifier 435 

48.1 The pre-modifier functions: epithet and classifier 436 

48.2 Adjectives as epithet: descriptive and attitudinal uses 437 

48.3 Ordering of multiple epithets 439 

48.4 Functions and properties of the classifier 440 

48.5 Adjectives, participles and nouns as classifiers 440 

48.6 Words functioning as both epithet and classifier 442 

48.7 Multiple classifiers 443 

48.8 Mixed pre-modifiers and their ordering 444 

Module 49: Identifying and elaborating the referent: the 

post-modifier 446 

49.1 Communicative functions of the post-modifier elements 447 

49.2 Restrictive and non-restrictive realisations of the post-modifier 447 

49.3 Finite relative clauses as post-modifiers 449 

49.3.1 The relativisers 449 

49.3.2 Features of the restrictive relative clause 450 

49.3.3 Features of the non-restrictive relative clause 451 

49.4 Non-finite relative clauses as post-modifiers 452 

49.5 Other types of unit as post-modifiers 452 

49.5.1 Prepositional phrases 452 

49.5.2 Adjectival groups 453 

49.5.3 Adverbial groups 454 

49.5.4 Appositive nominal groups 455 

49.6 Mixed realisations of the post-modifier 455 

Module 50: Noun complement clauses 457 

50. 1 Features of the fnaf-complement clause 457 

50.2 To-infinitive complement clauses 459 

50.3 of + -ing complement clauses 459 

50.4 W/i-complement clauses 459 

50.5 Prepositional complements of nouns 460 

50.6 Functions of the nominal group 460 

50.7 Nominalisation 461 

Further reading 462 

Exercises 462 



1 Nouns refer to classes of entities: persons, objects, places, institutions, 
actions, abstract ideas, qualities, phenomena, emotions, etc. 

2 How we experience entities: experiential features: countability, definiteness, 
quantity, description, classification, identification. 

3 Structural elements that realise experiential features: the head, the 
determiner, the pre-modifier, the post-modifier. 

4 Noun heads 

1. Common nouns. Countability. The notion of 'count' and 'non-count' (or 

2. Proper nouns. 

3. Pronouns. Personal pronouns: /, we, he/she it, one. Demonstrative 

pronouns: this, that, these, those. Interrogative pronouns: who, which, what. 
Substitute words: one/ones. 


Nominal Groups refer semantically to those aspects of our experience that we perceive 
as entities. The term 'entity' refers here not only to concrete entities such as persons, 
objects, places, institutions and other 'collectives', but also to the names of actions 
(swimming, laughter), abstractions (thought, experience), qualities (beauty, speed), emotions 
(anger, excitement) and phenomena (thunder, success), among others. Prototypical entities 
are those which are concrete, with well-defined outlines and relatively stable in time 
('person', rather than 'weather'). The following description of the sale of the painting 
known as L' Absinthe includes a number of nominal groups, which represent several 
classes of entities. (The article appeared under the ironic title 'Fairy Liquid' in The Times 
Weekend Review). 


One Saturday morning in February 1893, a sale was in progress at the smart new 
rooms of a London art dealer in a street leading to the flower market in Covent 
Garden. Smartly dressed wealthy art lovers had come from all over the country to 
bid for pictures from the estate of Henry Hill, 

Lot 209, showing a man and a woman in a Paris cafe, was brought in by staff 
and placed on the easel. Instead of quiet appraisal, a hush fell on the gallery, 
followed by low groans of disgust, then the sibilant sound of hissing anger. Bizarrely, 
a group of well-off English art lovers was jeering a painting by the acknowledged 
master Edgar Degas. 

When we name an entity, we usually add some information about it which shows 
how we 'experience' or perceive it. In expressing this 'experiential' information about 
an entity, some of it is placed before the noun and some after it, as we can see in some 
of the groups contained in the example text: 

P re-head 







in February 1 893 






smart new 


of a London art dealer 




leading to the flower 
market in Covent 


smartly dressed 

wealthy art 




from the estate of Henry 


lot 209 

showing a man and a 
woman in a Paris cafe 














of disgust 





of hissing anger 




of well-off English art 




by the acknowledged 
master Edgar Degas 

In this text, we see that the post-head information, given on the right about the head 
nouns in the middle column, also contains nouns with their own pre-head and post- 
head information. 



The nominal group has four primary elements or structural functions: the head, which 
is the central element, the determiner and the pre-modifier functions in the pre- 
head position, and the post-modifier function in post-head position. Of all these 
elements, the pre- and post-modifiers can usually be omitted, while the head together 
with the determiner, when present, may realise the NG (a sale, staff), as illustrated in the 
following examples: 





post- modifier 









in February 1 893 






The head 

The head is typically realised by a noun or pronoun (book, it). Instead of a noun we may 
find a substitute head, realised most commonly by one/ ones (a good one/ good ones). 
Adjectival heads are limited in English, for example: the poor, the unemployed, the 

The determiner 

The determiner function particularises the noun referent in different ways: by 
establishing its reference as definite or indefinite, by means of the articles (a book, an 
actor, the actor/ the book), or relating the entity to the context by means of the demon- 
stratives this, that, these, those (which are deictics or 'pointing words'), signalling that 
the referent is near or not near the speaker in space or time (this book, that occasion). 
The possessives signal the person to whom the referent belongs (my book, the Minister's 
reasons) and are sometimes reinforced by own (my own book). 

Other particularising words are the w/i-words (which book? whatever reason) and 
the distributives (each, every, all, either, neither). Quantifiers are also included in the 
determiner function. Quantification may be exact (one, seven, a hundred, the first, the next) 


or inexact (many, a lot, a few, some). All these classes of item that realise the determiner 
function are called determinatives. 

With regard to their position in the NG, determinatives fall into three broad groups: 

central determinatives: the articles, the demonstratives, the possessives, 
including the 's possessive, the quantifiers each, every, either, neither, some, any, 
enough, no. 

pre-determinatives: all, both, half and once, twice, double, three times, such, what. 
post-determinatives: the ordinal numerals (first, second, etc.) and the semi- 
determinatives same, other, former, latter, last, next, certain, own. 

The central determinatives are mutually exclusive, that is, each NG has only one. They 
can combine with the pre- and post-determinatives, however, as we shall see shortly. 

The pre-head modifier 

After the defining, particularising and quantifying items of information, which select 
the noun referent from others in the surrounding context, the pre-head modifier 
function (pre-modifier for short) describes or classifies the referent. Within this func- 
tion, the epithet characterises the referent by attributing qualities to it, realised by 
adjectives (smart, new rooms, a young man). The classifier restricts the referent to a 
sub-class (art lovers) and is realised by nouns (one Saturday morning, art lovers, top ten) 
or certain types of adjectives and participles (a political broadcast, general elections, 
leading articles). 

The post-head modifier (post-modifier for short) 

includes all the experiential post-head items that are placed after the head noun and 
which, like the pre-head items, help to define and identify the noun referent still further. 
The post-modifier, for which one can also use the term qualifier, is realised by finite 
and non-finite clauses, (the film we saw, a man reading a newspaper), PPs (in February 
1893) and, to a lesser extent, by other groups: NGs (shoes that size) and adverbial groups 
(the car outside). 

Supplementive (or 'non-defining') post-head elements are parentheticals. They 
don't define the noun referent, which is already defined, but instead contribute additional 
information. Compare the integrated relative clause which helps to define the noun 
referent 1 with the supplementive 2: 

1 I picked up the umbrella that was lying on the floor. (= the one on the floor) 

2 I picked up the umbrella, which was lying on the floor. (= the only umbrella) 

Different from the post-modifier is the complement, realised for instance by content 
clauses (the fact that he left, the belief that peace is round the corner . . .). 

Nominal groups can also function in apposition to the head noun (the acknowledged 
master Edgar Degas). 

As we have seen in chapters 2, 3 and 4, nominal groups function in clause structure 
as Subject, Object and Complement, realising the principal participants in the situation 


described by the clause: Agent, Affected and Recipient in material processes, and the 
corresponding participants in mental and relational processes. To a lesser extent the 
nominal group occurs as Adjunct (They left last Saturday). The NG also functions as 
complement of a preposition (in progress). 


Nominal heads fall into three main categories: common nouns, proper nouns and 
pronouns. Common nouns are characterised by having number contrast (i.e. having 
both singular and plural forms) and by being countable or non-countable, as described 


Regular plurals are formed by the addition of a suffix:/iz/ after a sibilant, as in kiss- 
kisses, church - churches (with the spelling -es); /s/ after a voiceless consonant as in books, 
cakes; or /z/ after a voiced consonant, as in pole -poles, streams - streams, or a vowel 
eye - eyes, cry - cries (the spelling is -s, with y becoming i after a consonant, but not after 
a vowel: day - days). A number of words of classical origin retain their original plurals, 
for example: phenomenon -phenomena; criterion - criteria. 

Most common irregular plurals are formed by a change of vowel (or of two vowels): 
woman - women, man - men, tooth - teeth. Child - children has developed a 'double' plural, 
having both a vowel change and a suffix. Another group marks the plural by a consonant 
change: half- halves; calf- calves; loaf- loaves. A third group of nouns have the same 
form for both singular and plural. This is known as 'zero plural': trout, salmon, sheep, 
deer, series, species, aircraft. 


English obliges us to make a distinction with regard to how a referent is cognitively 
perceived: whether as a discrete, countable entity, such as cow, or as an indivisible, non- 
countable 'mass' entity, such as beef. This difference constitutes a feature which is salient 
in speakers' experience of 'things'. 

Other languages make a count-mass distinction, but we must never assume that 
particular items are conceptualised and lexicalised in the same way in different 
languages. News, for instance, is a singular mass noun in English (the news is good); *one 
news, *a news, *many news are ungrammatical. In Spanish, by contrast, noticia is a normal 
count noun: una noticia, dos noticias, muchas noticias (=one/a, two, many news, 

Note that we use the terms 'non-count' and 'mass' without distinction, as both are in 
common use. 

A count noun is basically one whose referent can be counted, as in one cow, two 
cows, but not *one beef *two beefs. The referents of these nouns are viewed as 


individuated things or persons. The following count nouns include both regular plurals 
in -s and invariable or 'zero' plurals: 

ten cyclists two trout a dozen eggs three new television 

five minutes five salmon one grapefruit four crossroads 

two and a half kilos a hundred sheep two US aircraft two spacecraft 

A non-count noun is one whose referent is cognitively perceived as not countable. 
We don't say, for example *three furnitures, *one luggage. Both furniture and luggage, 
as well as news can be individuated by a preceding 'counter' - 'a piece of - as explained 

45.5.1 Grammatical features of countability 

Although individuation by cardinal numerals is a useful guide to countability, to get a 
more accurate description we have to consider the range of determiners that a noun 

Grammatical features of count nouns 

the cardinal numerals one, two, three, etc. {four miles) 

other quantifiers which imply numerals: both, a dozen, etc. (both hands, a dozen eggs) 

the article a(n) taking a singular form: 

I'm looking for a new job. 

the determiners each, every, either, neither, which precede singular heads. 

Each day is different. We go there every year. 

the plural (including 'zero') form of the noun preceded by a plural determiner: many, 
several, few, these, those. 

many choices, few opportunities; these aircraft, those sheep, several series. 

the plural with number contrast marked on the noun: lion/lions; child/ children; 

mouse/ mice; stimulus/ stimuli. 

plural number concord with verb or pronoun: People want to be happy, don't they? 

Grammatical features of non-count (massj nouns 

The following grammatical forms and structures mark a NG typically as 'mass': 

the singular form of the noun with zero determiner: 

Water is necessary for animal and plant life, 
the singular form of the noun preceded by all: 

I say this in all sincerity. All equipment must be regularly inspected. 


the singular form of the noun, quantified by much, little, a little: 
There isn 't much room in our apartment so we have little furniture. 

Nominal Groups that are not marked for countability 

The determiners the, this, that, my, your, his, her, its, our, their are neutral to the mass-count 
distinction and can be used with both types of reference: this house, this bread; our friend, 
our friendship. 

45.5.2 Selected classes of non-count nouns 

As non-count nouns are usually the most problematic for students of English, we group 
them into various types, starting with singular only or plural only. The selection of items 
is not intended to be exhaustive. 

/ . Non-count singular nouns - The news is good 

(a) Nouns which end in -ics and appear to be plural, but are in fact singular: 

linguistics logistics aerobics athletics mathematics 
ethics statistics phonetics physics politics 

These are areas of study or activities. They take all the grammatical markers of 
mass nouns. Ethic and statistic are sometimes used as count nouns: an ethic, a statistic. 

(b) Nouns which refer to a number of items conceptualised as an aggregate: 

baggage luggage cutlery crockery jewellery furniture 

The referents of these nouns consist of different objects: cutlery includes knives, 
forks and spoons, among other items. We can add or remove an item without 
affecting the concept expressed by the noun. They take all the grammatical markers 
of mass nouns. 

(c) Names of certain illnesses, diseases and of certain games: 

measles mumps rickets AIDS draughts darts skittles 

Darts and skittles take their names from the objects used, which are count nouns: 
one dart, two skittles. 

(d) Substances: natural phenomena, food 

rain snow hail sand water soil 
bread butter coffee meat fruit spaghetti 

The notion of substance is useful and may be extended to oxygen, heat, light and 
so on. 


(e) Abstractions 

sleep luck advice anger disgust love fun 

peace magic silence information courage justice time 

safety knowledge health music childhood youth age 

(f) Activities 

research work homework housework travel 

(g) Miscellaneous 

money progress environment weather electricity machinery 

Researches and works in works of art occur as plural, but homework and housework do not 
pluralise. Travel can be compared with the count noun journey. Travel is used for generic 
reference (see 46.6): air travel, sea travel in the singular, and in expressions such as on 
your travels in the plural. Journey is a regular count noun. Compare: 

*We went on a travel. We went on a. journey. 

Travel broadens the mind. * Journey broadens the mind. 

2. Non-count plural nouns - pyjamas and shorts 

These nouns have a plural morpheme but do not combine with numerals. They have 
no singular form. These 'things' may be lexicalised in other languages as regular count 
nouns, (for example un pantalon, unpijama in Spanish: 'a pair of trousers/pyjamas'). In 
English such items consisting of two equal parts are individuated by a pair of (a pair of 
trousers, shorts, etc.) to refer to one item of clothing. 

1 trousers shorts pyjamas scissors specs sunglasses 

2 manners thanks belongings surroundings means clothes 

More problematic are the nouns people, police and cattle. All three are singular in 
form but plural in meaning, taking plural concord with verbs. In other ways, however, 
they differ from each other. People and police can be enumerated (two or three people, 
six police). People generally replaces the use of persons with definite reference. Police is 
a collective (the police, police) and can be individuated by a noun compound (policeman/ 
policewoman/ police officer/ police constable), all count nouns. Cattle is individuated by 
'head' (a/ two head of cattle), used in specific registers. 

These nouns are only partially count in that they are not compatible with all the 
markers of countability. They take plural concord on the verb. Typical collocations with 
neutral quantifiers (a lot of, lots of) and plural quantifiers many, few, several are as follows: 

A lot of police/people/cattle/clothes. 
Lots of police/people/cattle/clothes. 


(Not) many/ few police officers/ people/ cattle/ clothes. 
Several policewomen/ police constables. 

3. Nouns with count and non-count uses - {some} coffee; two coffees 

Many mass nouns can be interpreted as count when they refer to instances of the mass 
referent, conceptualised as conventional quantities of food or drink. Compare: 

Mass: Coffee and tea help to keep you awake. 
Count: Two coffees, please, and three teas. 

In the context of restaurants or in-flight meals, even nouns such as beef and chicken may 
be interpreted as portions or choices, and countabilised: One beef and two chickens, please. 
In other cases the shape matters. Eatable entities visualised as having a definite shape 
are count (a cheese, a ham, a cake, a potato, an egg, a chicken, a fish) while the substance 
or flesh is conceptualised as mass: (some) cheese, (some) ham, (some) cake, (some) tomato, 
(some) mashed potato, (some) egg, (some) chicken, (some) fish. 

You've got egg on your tie. 
Susie prefers chicken to veal. 

The same happens with edible fishes. The animal itself is count, the flesh mass: He caught 
a salmon. We had salmon for dinner. Shellfish, however, is always non-count. The non- 
count is lexicalised differently in pairs such as cow (count) versus beef (mass), pig -pork, 
sheep - mutton, calf- veal, deer - venison. 

4. Abstract nouns - health, wealth and love 

Many, but not all, abstract nouns can be re-conceptualised as concrete instances of the 
mass meaning. Some, but by no means all, can be pluralised: 

Everyone needs sleep. She fell into a deep sleep. 

Silence in court! His remark was followed by a long 

They're making a lot of noise. I hear many strange noises at night. 

Time is on your side. How many times have you seen that film? 

Business is improving. His several businesses are doing well. 

One can never be sure of success. As an actor, he had more successes than 

Health is more important than *Healths are more important than 

wealth. *wealths. 

45.5.3 Count-ability markers of non-count referents 

There are a number of nouns which evoke smallness or shape and which are used to 
suggest a minimal quantity of a substance or of something not concrete. They are 


followed by of and the non-count word, and tend to have particular collocations. Here 
are some of the most common ones, preceded by the indefinite article: 

A bit of paper, cheese, ham, cloth, wood, information, fun, advice, news 

A piece of paper, cheese, meat, chocolate, bread, toast, wood, advice, news 

A clove of garlic (vs a head of garlic) 

A drop of milk, whisk(e)y, sherry, water, blood 

A game of cards, tennis, monopoly, golf 

A loaf of bread 

A pinch of salt 

A ray of sunshine, light, hope 

A scrap of paper, cloth, evidence 

A slice of bread, ham, cheese, turkey 

A speck of dust, dirt (often used in the negative not a speck of dust/ dirt, etc.) 

A spoonful of sugar 

Note that toast meaning 'toasted bread' is always non-count and requires 'a piece of in 
order to refer to an individuated piece (apiece, two pieces of toast). The count use as in 
a toast is only found in the sense of 'act of proposing a celebratory drink to someone'. 
Let's drink a toast to the happy pair'. A piece/ a bit of news can be contrasted with a news 
item, used in the media. 

As well as these, various types of container are used to quantify both mass and count 

A bottle of wine, beer, whisk(e)y, water 

A cup/ mug of tea, coffee 

A can of beer, petrol 

A carton of yogurt, cream, custard 

A pack of cards, milk, fruit juice, yoghurts 

A packet of detergent, tea, coffee, cigarettes, biscuits 

A tablet of soap, chocolate 

A tin of tomatoes, soup, sardines, biscuits 


Traditionally a distinction is made between proper nouns and proper names Proper 
nouns such as Hilary, Madrid are nouns that have no definable meaning in the language. 
They are arbitrary. That is, we can't specify characteristics of entities called Hilary or 
Madrid as we can for the entities referred to by the common noun horse. Proper names 
potentially have a more complex structure. They may consist of a proper noun such 
as Coca-Cola or include a proper noun as in Real Madrid, the University of Oxford. 
This is not necessarily the case, however, as can be seen from the titles of films and 
TV comedies with names such as The Office, Sex and the City, The Golden Globe. These 
and others, such as the names of universities, hospitals and other institutions, are - or 
started out as - descriptive labels. 


All are definite (see 46.1) and many contain a definite article as part of the name. 
Proper nouns such as Washington, Moscow, Brussels are used metonymically to stand for 
the administrative centre of the state or entity of which they are the capital. 

Artefacts such as cars, designer clothes and paintings are commonly referred to by 
their owners by proper nouns functioning as common nouns: a Volvo, an early Picasso, 
your Reeboks. 


45.7.1 Personal pronouns and reflexive pronouns 

The personal prounons 7, we (1st person), you (2nd singular and plural), he, she, it and 
they (3rd person) derive their functions directly from their relation to the speaker in the 
speech event They are therefore a type of 'pointing' element in that some of their 
meaning is derived from the context. (Other deictics include the demonstrative and 
possessive pronouns and determiners, which we deal with later on in this chapter). 

/and you refer directly to the participants engaged in the discourse exchange, /is the 
current speaker and you the addressee(s). The 3rd person pronouns he, she, it and they 
refer to persons and things who are not, at the moment of speaking, addressees. They 
may be either physically present or completely outside the discourse event. 

One is an impersonal singular pronoun which is sometimes used in formal styles to 
make general statements, often of (the speaker's own) opinion, or simply to avoid using 
/, as in examples 1 and 2, quoting the actor Edward Fox in The Times. 

The pronoun you, as in 3, can refer informally to people in general to describe 
a common kind of happening or experience. These are non-deictic (non-pointing) 

1 'One thinks about life a lot more as time goes by.' 

2 'My two years there [at RADA, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art] were an 
utter waste of time but I did meet one's first wife and had one's first child.' 

3 It's embarrassing when you can't remember someone's name. 

/ and we 

Whereas / refers to the current speaker, we is not the plural of /, but rather / plus one 
or more other persons. The pronouns we/ us either include or exclude the addressee: 

inclusive we: Shall we sit together over there? 

inclusive us: Let's go! Let us pray, (formal) 

exclusive we We wanted to ask you a favour, 

exclusive us: Let us go! (see 24.2.3) 

Strong stress (marking information focus) on we can disambiguate a potentially 
ambiguous reference. Otherwise, the addressee has to work out the meaning from the 


A. How are we going to get there? (ambiguous: speaker's intended meaning 

was probably inclusive) 

B. Well, WEre going in Tom's car. (exclusive) 

We/ us can refer to 'everybody in general': 

We don't seem to be near world peace yet. 

The following letter, which appeared as a question (Q) in the Dear Doctor section of 
the Guardian, illustrates how context enables us to identify the referents of personal 
pronouns. For instance, who is the referent of the pronoun T (in Q) and 'you' (in the 
answer A)? And of 'he/she' in Q, and 'they', 'themselves' in A? Are the references to 
'we' and 'our' inclusive or exclusive? 

Q. I live on the outskirts of London and have noticed a very tame fox that seems to 
be getting increasingly bold and is coming near the house. Last week, he (she?) 
even stuck his nose into the kitchen and we spotted him playing on the kids' 
swings and eating leftovers on the picnic table in the garden. He looks wary 
when he sees us but doesn't exactly run away. My wife is concerned about the 
potential health risk to us and to our young children. Should we get rid of him, 
and if so, how? 

A. He's not a health risk unless you're a hen or a rabbit, in which case you're in 
mortal danger. Urban foxes never attack humans unless they're cornered and 
under attack themselves. Rabid foxes sometimes do, but there is officially no 
rabies in the UK. Apparently, at this time of year, parent foxes turf out their 
young to fend for themselves, which is why they can be spotted wandering 
disconsolately round the garden, playing on swings and scavenging for food. 

He, she and they as gender-neutral pronouns 

Until fairly recently the pronouns he and his (in both pronominal and determiner 
function) were regularly used, not only to refer to a male referent, but also as a 
supposedly gender-neutral pronoun to include a female referent, as in 1 below. Such a 
discriminatory use in favour of males has become increasingly unacceptable to many 
speakers, particularly with reference to occupations, jobs and roles. One alternative, to 
use she as the unmarked form, has not caught on extensively, presumably because it 
discriminates in favour of females, as in 2, so it does not solve the problem, which is 
essentially the fact that English does not have a sex-neutral 3rd person singular pronoun. 
In writing, the combination s/he is becoming common, but it is not transferable to 
the spoken language. The disjunctive he or she becomes cumbersome if repeated too 
often. A further alternative, the use of they with both singular and plural verb forms, is 
becoming more extensive as in 2: 


1 Every human being of adult years and sound mind has a right to determine 
what shall be done with his own body. [bnc ask 1476] 

2 ... the non-distressed parent may choose to make explicit to the friend her own 
thinking, such as 'well, the children do usually obey us and every parent gets 
wound up from time to time with their child.' [bnc aln 778] 

The pronoun it 

The pronoun it, besides referring to specific objects and animals, can refer to a situation 
1 or a fact 2. It is also used to refer to babies and infants, especially if the sex is 
undetermined by the speaker 3 or the reference is generic 4. In addition, it is often non- 
referring as in 3, its presence responding to the need, in English, for an overt syntactic 
subject (except in the imperative) (see 24.2). 

1 They were all shouting and fighting; it was terrible. 

2 She was very scared, but she tried not to show it. 

3 Olga's baby is due in October. - Oh, is it a boy or a girl? 

4 After the child is born, it needs constant care. 

5 It won't be easy to pass the driving test first time. 

The pronouns he and she are often used to refer to animals, especially when they are in 
contact with humans. Otherwise they are referred to as it. 

The reflexive pronouns 

These pronouns - myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, themselves - 
have three functions: co-reference with the subject 1; an emphatic use, in which the 
pronoun is either appositive to the subject or postponed 2; and where they are required 
by the verb 3: 

1 They learned to take care of themselves. 

2 Susan herself told me so. Susan told me so herself. 

3 She knows how to fend for herself. One should avail oneself of such opportunities. 

Interrogative and indefinite pronouns 

The interrogative pronouns - who, whose, which, what- are described and illustrated 
in their pronominal and determinative functions in Chapter 5, devoted to interpersonal 

Rather different are the indefinite pronouns compounded from some, any, no and 

somebody, someone, something anybody, anyone, anything 
everybody, everyone, everything nobody, no-one, nothing 

These pronouns refer directly to an indefinite person or thing, or a broad class or persons 
or things, not to a referent already present in the discourse. In this respect they behave 


more like nouns than like pronouns, and are often post-modified, as in nothing new, 
someone like vou. 

someone like you. 

45.7.2 The pronouns this and that 

The deictics this and that can function as NG heads to refer to a whole proposition or 
situation or something inferred from it, a use which we classify here as pronominal. (For 
their function as determiners, see 47.2). These pronominal references may be anaphoric 
(to a previous part of the discourse), cataphoric (to a later part of the discourse) or 
exophoric (to something outside the discourse): 

Anaphoric reference: Hilda was making a Dutch Delft cake at the oven. This was 
her speciality and she made it on every occasion. 

[BNC ATE 1180-1181] 

Cataphoric reference: This is a security announcement: Would those 

passengers who have left bags on their seats please 
remove them. 

Exophoric reference: I never thought things would come to this. 
(= to this extreme) 

We can see that all the referents in these examples are inanimate and general, and some 
of them refer to pieces of extended discourse. 

Reference to persons by the pronouns this and that is limited in English to the 
following uses: 

1. This is (+ one's own name) for identifying oneself in a non-face-to-face situation, 
illustrated by la; as compared with self-introduction when face-to-face lb, where 
we can use / ami I'm (+ one's own name). 

2. This is . . . for introducing one person to another 2 (less formal than May I introduce 
you toX?). 

3. That ... for asking or giving the identification of a more distant 3rd person, using 
that 3. 

la This is Sally Jones speaking (non-face-to-face self-identification, 

(not */ am Sally Jones) for instance, on the telephone) 

lb / am Sally Jones (not *This is (face-to-face self-identification) 
Sally Jones) 

2 This is my friend June. (introducing one person to another) 

3 Who is that? That's my friend (identification of a 3rd person 

June. at some distance away from the speaker, 

or looking at a photograph) 

So far we have seen this indicating proximity to the speaker and that distance. However, 
these terms are often interpreted subjectively. For instance, an event distant in time 
may be referred to as this if it has just been mentioned: 


Columbus discovered the Bahamas in 1492 and this changed the course of history. 

Conversely, events near in time may be referred to by that when an effect of 
psychological distancing is required. In many cases, however, the choice is open: 

If the Opposition wins the motion of 'No Confidence' today, that/ thisvtiW mean the 
end of the present government. 

45.7.3 The discourse function of pronouns 

The principal function of personal pronouns is to help establish major referents in the 
discourse by setting up referential (or identity) chains by means of anaphora (Chapter 
6). This is an important part of referential coherence, of making important referents 
continuous and salient enough to be perceived and remembered by listeners and 
readers. In conversation, interlocutors participate in the joint construction of referential 
chains, as can be seen in our next illustration. 

A new referent is likely to be introduced first by a proper noun such as Vera or Mother, 
when the speaker expects the addressee to be able to identify the referent. Otherwise, 
a full nominal group containing descriptive information is used (a/ the girl I met this 
morning at the Post Office). Subsequent mentions can be carried out by pronouns, which 
are 'lighter' than nouns and much lighter than extended nominal groups. Finally, zero 
anaphora (She came in and (0) sat down) is even lighter than the pronoun. From time to 
time, especially if ambiguity might arise through two referents having the same gender 
('Vera' and 'Mother', she . . . she), the pronoun is replaced by the proper noun. Anaphoric 
reference has also been described as a device of cohesion. 

In the following extract from Just Between Ourselves, by Alan Ayckbourn, Dennis is 
telling his friend Neil about the bad relations that exist between his mother and his wife 
Vera. The italicised pronouns function in referential chains: 

Neil: Vera's looking better. 

Dennis: Oh, she is. She's a lot better. She's getting better every day. Once she 
and mother can bury the hatchet, we'll be laughing. 

Neil: Are fhey still . . .? 

Dennis: Not talking at all. 

Neil: Really. 

Dennis: Well, actually, it's Vera who's not talking to mother. Mother comes in one 
door, Vera goes out the other. Ridiculous. Been going on for weeks. I said 
to them - look, girls, just sit down and have a laugh about it. There's only 
one life, you know. Thafs all you've got. One life. Laugh and enjoy it while 
you can. We'll probably all be dead tomorrow so what's the difference? 
Do they listen to me? Do they hell! 

When two referents share identifying properties, naming may not be sufficient to avoid 
ambiguity in the use of a pronoun. In the following example, inference based on the 


interpretation of concession in 'though', and of reason in 'because' enables the hearer 
or reader to correctly assign the reference of he in the subordinate clauses: 

Tom jumped in the river to save Bill though he couldn't swim, (he = Tom) 
Tom jumped in the river to save Bill because he couldn't swim, (he = Bill) 

45.7.4 Substitute one/ ones 

An object that has already been mentioned or is visible in the discourse can be referred 
to by the head-word one, plural ones. These words have no semantic identity of their 
own, but only the grammatical function of substituting for a noun or NG in order to 
avoid repetition. When used in this way, these items are classed as 'substitute heads', 
to distinguish them from the classes of 'pronominal heads' of NGs. 

It is important to note that one/ ones can replace either a whole antecedent NG or 
only part of it. Compare 1 and 2 with 3. In 4, the elliptical plural some, not ones is the 
plural of one. 

1 I knew Mavis wanted a blue scarf, so I bought her one. (one = whole NG a blue 

2 I knew Mavis wanted a blue scarf, so I bought her a lovely one. (- blue scarf). 

3 I couldn't find a blue scarf for Mavis, so I bought her a green one. (- scarf) 

4 I know Mavis likes scarves, so I bought her some lovely ones. (= scarves) 

The substitute item one/ ones may be accompanied by a determiner, a pre-modifier or 
a post-modifer, thus producing NGs of varying structures: 

dh: this one, each one, either one, which ones, any ones. 

dmh: that big one, a small red one, a few ripe ones. 

dhm: that one over there, any one you like. 

dmhm: some fresh ones from the country. 

Possessive determinatives are rarely used before one/ ones in standard English. Possible 
uses are ?my one, Peter's one, my friend's ones, although those ones is becoming standard. 
For other comments on substitution and ellipsis in the NG, see also 29.6. 





1 Definiteness is marked by the definite article the and by the determinatives this, 
that, these, those or by the possessives my, your, etc. + noun. 

2 Indefiniteness is marked by a(n), some, any and zero. Indefinite nouns are 
specific or non-specific. 

3 Generic reference by zero (+ singular mass, plural count nouns); by a(n) and 
by the. 


In English, the grammar obliges us to refer to people and things as definite, indefinite, 
or generic. This is done syntactically by the use of determinatives, and among these, in 
particular, by the definite, indefinite and zero articles, which are traditionally treated 
separately as a subsystem of the system of determination. 

Definite reference is made by the or a deictic determinative (this, that, these, those) or 
a possessive (my, your, etc.). Indefinite reference is made by a(n), unstressed some, any 
or the absence of a marker, which, since its absence is grammatically significant, is called 
the 'zero article'. 'Zero' doesn't mean that an article has been omitted, as may occur in 
a newspaper headline, such as Plane crashes on village, but is a category in its own right. 

The three articles are distributed as follows with mass and count nouns: 


Singular count 

Plural count 


the butter 

the woman 

the women 


- (zero) butter 

a woman 

- (zero) women 

(unstressed) some butter 


(unstressed) some 


An entity is considered as 'indefinite' if there is nothing in the discourse or the 
situation or our general knowledge of the world that identifies it for us. This is the case 
with a tiger, a child of six, a show and a school in the news item from The Sunday Times 

A tiger attacked a child of six during a show at a school in California after its handler 
lost control of the 2001b animal. The head teacher wrestled the boy from the animal's 
jaws and he was flown to hospital. 

Once the entity has already been mentioned it can be considered as 'definite': the 2001b 
animal, the boy, the animal'sjaws. Definiteness is inferred if there is sufficient information 
to identify it, either in the text (its handler, the head teacher) or in the non-linguistic 
situation (Don't forget to lock the door) or in general knowledge (The Olympic Games). 
Note that neither the handler nor the head teacher in this text had been previously 
mentioned. We identify them in relation to 'tiger' and 'school', respectively through 
general knowledge and inference: animals on show have a handler and schools have a 
head teacher. This is known as indirect anaphoric reference. 


Although the term 'indefinite' might appear to be synonymous with 'non-specific', it can 
in fact be applied to both non-specific and specific entities, whether these are count or 

singular: I've bought a new car. 
I need a new car. 

(indef. specific) 
(indef. non-specific) 

plural: I've got some friends in London, (indef. specific) 

I've got friends in London. (indef. non-specific) 

mass: I managed to find some work. 

I managed to find wort 

(indef. specific) 
(indef. non-specific) 

The examples show that with singular count nouns (a car), the article a(n) refers to both 
specific and non-specific entities, the different interpretations being deduced prag- 
matically from shared knowledge and also from the different predicates. When we need 
a car, it is obviously not yet specific, but potentially any car. When we have bought a 
car, it is obviously a specific one. The article a(n) can be indeterminate, however, 
between specific and non-specific interpretations: 

Ted wants to buy a house in Sussex. 
Ted wants to buy a house in Sussex. 
It's number 2, Farm Road, Brighton. 

any house, as long as it's in Sussex) 
a specific house) 


As an indefinite determinative, some (unstressed) is used mainly with mass and plural 
count nouns, but the stressed form is sometimes used with mass or count nouns with 
the meaning of indefinite specific as in: There is still some hope of recovery, or non-specific 
as in I'll need some book or other to read on the beach. Either would be meaningful here. 


Since proper nouns (Albert Einstein, William Shakespeare) refer to unique entities, they 
are already definite and cannot logically be conceived of as indefinite. On the other 
hand, since it is often possible for several entities to be denoted by the same name, such 
as persons or days of the week, they can be treated sometimes as classes composed of 
individual members. This allows expressions such as the following: 

Is there a John Smith in this class? (indef. specific) 

It would be better to meet on a Monday, (indef. non-specific) 
We had a very hot June last year. (indef. specific) 

Indefinite reference can be made to proper nouns used as common nouns: 

I'd like a Martini. 


The definiteness of a common noun is indicated by the article the. This does not by itself 
identify the referent, but indicates that it can be identified within the text, or outside the 
text in the situation or from general knowledge. Within the text, the reference may 
be anaphoric (backwards) or cataphoric (forwards). The anaphor often expresses the 
antecedent in different words, as in the following news item: 

Ten lionesses at the city zoo are to be put on a contraceptive pill to prevent a 
population explosion. For 20 years the lions ] have prided themselves on their 
breeding capabilities. Now, the treatment will make them infertile for 3 years and 
so stop /he increase. 3 

'= ten lionesses; 2 = a contraceptive pill; 3 = a population explosion 

The referent of a definite head noun can be identified cataphorically by the information 
contained in the post-modifer, as in: the bus coming now, the journey home, the Ministry of 
Health; or by a determiner or pre-modifier: this bus, the first bus, the red bus. 

Reference to shared knowledge immediately identifies the referent of, for example, 
the sun, the sky, the rain, the government, the political situation, the television. 


Clearly dependent upon inference for their interpretation, but totally normal in certain 
professional registers of English are metonymic uses, where the thing stands for the 
person, as in the following examples: 

The ham sandwich has left without paying. 

The kidney transplant in 104 is asking for a glass of water. 

When a personal noun, such as secretary, queen, director, head, functions as Subject 
Complement in a clause and refers to a unique social role, definiteness can be marked 
either by the or by zero, with certain lexico-grammatical constraints: 

He soon became director/ the director of the firm. 

When the noun functions as Complement in a verbless clause introduced by when, while, 
if, although, definiteness can be marked by zero: 

While Minister of Health, he introduced many reforms. 

Although not party leader, he greatly influenced the party's policies. 


The semantic function of the articles is to present the referents of NG heads as definite, 
indefinite or generic. 

The first two meanings are basically discourse functions, associated with the infor- 
mation packaging of the content of a clause, sentence or extended discourse into Given 
and New information; that is, what is taken by the speaker as known to the hearer, and 
what is taken as not known, respectively (see Chapter 6). The following paragraph, also 
from Alan Ayckbourn, giving the stage directions for the play, illustrates these functions. 
'New' is marked by a/ an or zero, and 'Given' by the: 

February. A garage attached to a medium price executive house on a private estate 
belonging to DENNIS and VERA. Down one wall of the garage a workbench littered 
untidily with tools, etc. In fact the whole place is filled with the usual garage junk, 
boxes, coils of rope, garden chairs, etc. In the midst of this, a small popular car, at 
least seven years old, stands neglected. Over the work bench a grimy window which 
looks out over a small paved 'sitting area'. On the other wall a door, leading across 
a small dustbin yard to the backdoor of the house. There is also a paved walkway 
round the side of the garage, nearest us, leading to the 'sitting area'. 

The text begins naturally with New items (a garage, a house and a private estate); followed 
by a second mention of the garage, which is now known or 'Given'; then a 'New' item, 
a workbench, with indefinite 'New' tools, and a second mention, by inference, to the whole 


place. The text continues to build up a description of the stage cohesively, bit by bit, in 
a straightforward, coherent way. This is a normal way of introducing Given and New 
information in a text of this kind. 

Quite commonly in fiction, however, a writer introduces a new referent at the 
beginning of a story as if it were already known. This happens in the novel Watership 
Down, where the first sentence is 'The primroses were over'. The use of the definite 
article here perspectivises the story from a particular viewpoint: that of the rabbits, the 
protagonists of the story, as readers soon discover. 


Each of the articles can also be used when we wish to refer to a whole class of entities, 
usually with regard to their typical characteristics or habitual activities: 

the + singular count noun: They say the elephant never forgets. 

a(n) + singular count noun: They say an elephant never forgets. 

zero + plural count noun: They say elephants never forget. 

zero + mass noun: They say exercise keeps you healthy. 

In the everyday use of English, the zero form with plural count nouns (elephants) is most 
applicable, while with mass nouns (e.g. love) the zero form is obligatory. The three 
articles express genericity from different points of view, which we will gloss as follows: 

the represents the referent of the noun as a single undifferentiated whole class of 


a(n) represents any individual member of a class of entity as typical of the whole 


zero implies that all or most members of the class of entity possess the characteristic 

that is predicated of it. 

The four structures mentioned above are not freely interchangeable in all generic 
statements. The generic use of a(n) is restricted, in that it can't be used in attributing 
properties which belong to the class as a whole. For example, the but not a is acceptable 
in the following, since an individual kangaroo does not constitute a species, whether 
near extinction or not, whereas the class as a whole, represented by the, does: 

The kangaroo is far from being extinct. 
*A kangaroo is far from being extinct. 

Both the and a(n) are acceptable with a characterising predicate, as in our next example, 
since carrying its young in a pouch is characteristic of each and every female kangaroo: 

The female kangaroo carries its young in its pouch. 
A female kangaroo carries its young in its pouch. 


The article the tends to generalise more readily than a(n), which refers essentially to a 
singular indefinite member as representative of its class. The + singular count noun may 
have a generalising value, even when not used in a generic statement: 

Do you play the piano? 

Some people sit for hours in front of the television. 

The definite article is also used: 

with certain adjectival or participial heads of NGs referring to abstract qualities (the 


for groups of people named by a nominalised Attribute, the underprivileged, the 


with nouns derived from PPs (the under-fives, the over-forties); 

for nationalities (the Dutch, the Swiss). 

All but abstract qualities have plural concord with the verb: 

Science proceeds from the known to the unknown. 

Nursery schools for the under-fives are desperately needed in this area. 

Not all adjectives and PPs can function in these ways and the non-native speaker should 
be cautious in choosing them. 

The loosest and therefore most frequent type of generic statement is that expressed 
by the zero article with plural count nouns or with mass nouns: 

Kangaroos are common in Australia. 

Wine is one of this country's major exports. 

Zero article with plural count nouns may have generic or indefinite reference according 
to the predication: 

Frogs have long hind legs, (generic = all frogs) 

He catches frogs. (indefinite = an indefinite number of frogs) 

A mass noun with zero article can be considered generic even if it is modified: 
Colombian coffee is said to be the best. It is definite, however, if preceded by the. Contrast, 
for example: 

generic: Nitrogen forms 78% of the earth's atmosphere. 
definite: The nitrogen in the earth's atmosphere is circulated by living 




The determiner 


1 The determiner 

The first element of the nominal group, the determiner, particularises by 
'selection'. Four main types of selection: demonstrative and possessive, 
quantification and distribution. 

2 Demonstrative and possessive determinatives 

Demonstrative: this week, that day, these events, those ideas 

Possessive: my coat, Tom's house, their university, our bus, the moon's 

orbit . . . 

3 Wh- determinatives: which, what, whose, whichever, etc. 

4 Quantifying determinatives 

Exact quantifiers (numeratives): cardinal and ordinal numerals 
Non-exact: some, any, no, much, many, little, few, several 

5 Distributors: all, both, each, every, either, neither, 

6 The semi-determinatives: such, same, certain, another, other, former, latter, last, 

7 Summary of determinative elements 

8 Multiple realisations of the determiner 


Common nouns in the dictionary refer to classes of things, but when they are used in 
discourse they need to be particularised. This is done by the first element of the nominal 
group, called the determiner. The basic function of this element is to particularise and 
so help to identify the NG referent in the context of the speech situation. 


As in other areas of the grammar, we distinguish between a function, in this case the 
determiner, and the classes of units, here called determinatives, which realise the 
function. The determiner is an element in the syntactic or 'logical'structure of the NG. 
(Module 50); the various classes of determinatives contribute to the 'experiential struc- 
ture' of the NG (see 45.2); that is, their functions are semantic, and express the different 
features the speaker chooses in order to select and particularise the noun referent within 
the context of discourse. 

Determiners identify a nominal group referent by telling us which or what or whose 
it is, how much, how many, what part or degree of it we are referring to, how big or 
frequent it is, how it is distributed in space or time. In the following short passage about 
the problem of waste disposal, the writer refers to the entities: rubbish, day, year, goods, 
amount, plants, factories, fuel, snags, risk, damage, degrees centigrade, and specifies them 
in respect to the questions given below: 

Three quarters of the rubbish 1 we generate every 2 day could be recycled, and more 
ofifi could be, if the production of biodegradable goods were encouraged. At present 
the same 4 amount is wasted every 5 day because of the notorious lack of incineration 
plants. Such 6 plants could be installed in alF factories so that each® company could 
burn its own 9 rubbish and save a great deal of 10 fuel. The only y ' snag about waste 
burners is that they emit certain^ 2 kinds of highly contaminating gases, but it is 
calculated that in a few 13 years rubbish will be burned without causing any u damage 
to the environment. A further argument is that, although nuclear fusion has none of 5 
the risk of fission, so far, no 16 scientist has yet found a system which can function at 
temperatures lower than millions oP 7 degrees centigrade. 

[Speak Up, no. 66) 

'how much? 2 how often? 3 how much? "which amount? 5 how often? 'which kind? 
7 which ones? 8 how many? or which? 'whose? ,0 how much? "which? ,2 which? 
,3 how many? ,4 how much? ,5 how much? ,6 which? ,7 how many? 


Demonstratives: this, that, these, those 

These items particularise the NG referent by indicating whether it is near (this, these) or 
not near (that, those) the speaker, in space or time or psychologically, as explained in 
45.7.2 for demonstrative pronouns. They can refer to both human and non-human 
entities in both singular and plural (this century, these girls, that cat, those brakes). 

Like the demonstrative pronouns, the determinatives are used with anaphoric, 
cataphoric and situational reference (see 45.7.2). 

The determinatives this and these are also used to introduce a new topic entity into 
the discourse. This use is particularly common in anecdotes, stories and jokes: 

I'm walking along the street when this man comes up to me and says . . . 


Possessive determinatives 

These include not just the possessive determinatives my, your, his, her, its, our, your, their, 
but also the inflected'.? genitive form. 

The 's determinative must be understood in a broader sense than that of the tradi- 
tional term 'possessive'. The following selection, each with a corresponding paraphrase 
does not pretend to be exhaustive: 


My daughter's car 
Napoleon's army 
Napoleon's mistake 
Napoleon's defeat 
Europe's chief cities 
Today's paper 
A month's holiday 
The dog's tail 

The car's brakes 
The sun's rays 


My daughter has a car 
N. commanded the army. 
N. made a mistake. 
N. was defeated by X. 
The chief cities in Europe. 
The paper published today. 
The holiday lasted a month. 
The dog has a tail. 

The car has brakes 

The rays come from the sun. 










(part-whole relation) 

These varied functional relationships also exist between a noun head and the deter- 
minatives my, your, his, her, its, our, their, someone's, everyone's, nobody's and the like: 

His mistake He made a mistake. subjective 

Our friendship We became friends. reciprocal 

Their love They love each other, reciprocal 

Its collapse It collapsed. subjective 

The 's determinative is formally a NG plus an inflected genitive morpheme. By con- 
vention, the apostrophe is placed before the s with a singular noun, but after it with 
a regular plural noun in s. Compare: the boy's bicycle, the boys' bicycles. With a name 
of three syllables or more ending in -s, the apostrophe tends to be placed after the s: 
Socrates' wisdom. With a name of two syllables, the placement of the s is optional: Dr. 
Davies' surgery, Dr. Davies's surgery, the latter case reflecting the additional syllable in 

The inflection is added not merely to the head noun but to the group as a whole: 

My supervisor's advice; my mother and father's wishes. 

I liked those other children's paintings very much. 

That young Japanese pianist's performance was wonderful. 

47.2.1 Functions of the 's phrase 

The examples seen so far have all illustrated the central function of the 's phrase: to 
specify the nominal group referent, as in that girl's name. 


Some 's NGs may also function as classifiers, as in girls' names. With the article a(n) the 
NG may have two interpretations. The NG a lady's bicycle may refer to the bicycle of a 
particular lady, or to the class of bicycle designed for ladies, not for men. The context 
of discourse normally clarifies the interpretation. Other examples of this type include: 
a lion's mane, a bird's nest, a child's toothbrush, and also: 

I need a specialist's opinion, not a journalist's. 

Classifying genitives are typically used with plural personal nouns: children's clothing, a 
men's club, boys' names. 

47.2.2 Possessives as nominal group heads 

The possessive pronouns mine, yours, his, hers, (its), ours, theirs function not as deter- 
minatives but as pronominal heads. (Its is not used to realise this function.) 

This suitcase is yours. Where is mine! It's over there with Tom's. 

The 's phrase stands alone as an ellipted head of the NG when the noun head is 
recoverable, either because it has already been mentioned, or by convention. In the 
latter case the 's element often refers to people's homes or establishments such as 
restaurants and shops, as well as to individuals: 

Let's have dinner at Archy's. These gloves aren't mine, they're Daniel's. 
I have to go to the cleaner's (dry cleaner's), the butcher's, the florist's. 

A friend of mine, a friend of my sister's 

The post-modifying possessive phrase of mine, of yours etc. is equivalent to the 'double 
possessive' as in a friend of my sister's. They have the meaning of 'one among several' 
as opposed to the more exclusive meaning of 'my friend', 'my sister's friend'. An exclu- 
sive meaning, which may also express an attitude on the part of the speaker, is found, 
however, when the phrase occurs together with another determinative (this, that, a, the, 
other, etc.), a combination that is not possible otherwise: 

That motorcycle of your brother's 


Which, whose express specific selection among a known number; what asks about the 
identity or kind of thing something is. Whatever, whichever express non-specific selection, 
meaning 'it doesn't matter what', 'it doesn't matter which', respectively, when the 
speaker is not able to specify a particular type. What can also be used as an equivalent 
to whatever or stressed any (see 47.4.1): 


Which bus do you take? 

Whose car did you come in? 

What plans have they made for the summer? 

You'll have to rely on whatever transport is available. 

You'll find plenty of traffic whichever road you take. 

What hopes we had are now fading. (= whatever hopes, any hopes) 


A speaker may select or particularise a referent by referring to its quantity, which may 
be exact (three friends), non-exact (many friends), ordinal (the first friend), or partitive (three 
of my friends). 

Exact numeratives 

These include the cardinal numerals one, two, three . . . twenty-one, twenty-two . . . 
a hundred and five . . . one thousand, two hundred and ten, and so on. These function 
directly as determinatives. 

The ordinal numbers - first, second, third, fourth, fifth . . . twenty-first . . . hundredth 
. . . hundred and fifth and so on - specify the noun referent in terms of order. They follow 
a determinative, as in: the first time, a second attempt, every fifth step, and in this respect 
are more like the semi-determinatives, including the next, the last. 

Non-exact quantifiers 

The two types select referents by referring to: 

their indefiniteness: some, any, no, much, many, little, few (a(n) is treated in 46.1). 
their distribution: all, both, either, neither, each, every, another, other. 

47.4.1 Indefinite quantifiers 

Some, any, no, (none} 

Some specifies a quantity (with mass nouns) or a number above two (with count nouns) 
as in some money, some time, some friends, some details. Other quantifiers are used to 
express very small or very large amounts. The word some is pronounced in two ways, 
according to its function. It has a weak form when used non-selectively as an indefinite 
determiner (see 46.1), but it is strong when used as a selective quantifier: 

non-selective /ssm/ We're spending some days by the sea. 
selective /saiti/ Some days it's hot, other days it's cold. 

Stressed some can also be used with various types of evaluative force: 

quantifying: I haven't seen you for some time. (= a long time) 
appreciative: That really was some meal! (= a wonderful meal) 


Any has two meanings, as illustrated in the following examples (see also 3.3): 

1 Have you any money /any coins? I haven't any money /any coins. 

2 Any information would be useful. 

In 1, any specifies an indeterminate amount or number of something. It occurs in non- 
affirmative clauses, that is, in negative and interrogative clauses mainly (see non- 
assertion, 3.4). It is typically unstressed. 

In 2, any is equivalent to 'no matter which or what'. It occurs typically in affirmative 
clauses and is stressed. Compare this use of any with anything and either. 

You can choose any of the main courses on the menu, (it doesn't matter which) 
You can choose anything on the menu. (it doesn't matter what) 

You can choose either meat or fish. (one or the other, not 


The negative determinative no has mass, count, singular and plural references: no 
time, no change, no changes. 

There is no need to worry. No changes will be made. None (pronoun) will be made. 

Some and any - but not no - can function as elliptical heads of the NG. Instead of no, 
the pronoun none is used, as in the previous example, and also for the partitive ('none 
of the men'). 

Have you any change? Yes, I have some. No, I haven't any. I have none. 
Did you have any problem in parking? No, none. (= no problem) 

Did you have any difficulties with your papers? No, none. (= no difficulties) 

Note that not is a negative particle, and does not function as a determinative or a 
pronoun. It can precede the quantifiers much and many in ellipted responses. 

Isn't there anything to eat? Not much. 
Haven't you any friends'? Not many. 

Much, little, a little, many, few, a few 

These quantifiers are used with both indefinite and definite NGs. With definite reference 
they are followed by o/and have partitive reference: they represent a sub-set of an 
already selected class. 

Indefinite reference - non-partitive 
much time, much food (+ mass n.) 
little time, little food (+ mass n.) 

many pubs, many people (+ count n.) 
few seats, few people (+ count n.) 

a few seats, a few people (+ count n.) 

Definite reference -partitive 
Much of the time, much of the food 
little of the time, little of the food 
many of the pubs, many of the people 
few of the seats, few of the people 
a few of the seats, a few of the people 


These quantifiers can function as ellipted heads. Much and many are used mainly in 
negative and interrogative clauses. Much and little are commonly modified by very or 
replaced by a lot, not very much, respectively. 

Is there much food? There's very little. There's a lot. *There's much. There isn't 
much. There aren't (very) many people. 

A lot of, lots of, plenty of, a great deal of, a number of a lot of/lots of 

These quantifiers are determinatives with noun heads followed by a PP complement. 
They range from the informal (a lot/ lots of) to the formal (a great deal/ number of). Some 
of them admit both mass and count nouns, others do not: 

Singular mass and 
plural count: 

Singular mass only 
Plural count only: 

a lot of lots of, plenty of 

a great deal of 
a number of 

a lot of/lots of/ plenty of 

a lot of/lots of/plenty of 

a great deal of money 
a number of policemen 

More informal combinations of this type which function like a lot/ lots o/include loads 
of, heaps of masses of. 

These phrasal quantifiers are not partitives even though they contain the preposition 
of. Partitives have definite reference and represent subsets from already selected sets. 
Here is a selection of examples of non-partitive quantifiers, as well as cardinal and 
ordinal numbers, together with their partitive counterparts: 

Non-partitive quantifiers 

Partitive quantifiers 

A lot of money was wasted 

No money was wasted 

They spent a great deal of time in pubs 

Some books were damaged in the fire 

Few seats were vacant 

Three people were injured 

Their first child was born in Wales 

A lot of the money was wasted 

None of the money was wasted 

They spent a great deal of the time in pubs 

Some of the books were damaged in the 

A few of the seats were vacant 
Three of the people were injured 
The first of their children was born in Wales 

47.4.2 Distributors: All, both, either, neither, each, every 

Of the distributive determinatives, all refers to a totality; it can be used with mass nouns 
(all power corrupts), plural nouns in a generic sense (all men are mortal) and certain 
temporal and locative nouns (all day, all night, all America). When the reference is not 
generic, all is optionally followed by of+ noun (all the pie/ all of the pie; all the pages/ all 


Both refers to two entities together. Either and the negative form neither refer to two 
entities as alternatives. Each and every refer to one of a group or series, but while each 
emphasises the separateness of the entity, every highlights the individual within the 
group. Each can refer to two entities separately (each hand, each foot) but every is applic- 
able only to groups of three or more. Both, either, neither and each (but not every) can 
take optional o/before the noun (the partitive use). Here are some examples: 

All birds have feathers, but not all birds can fly. (generic) 

All the bedrooms/^// of the bedrooms have a balcony and telephone, and some take 
a third and fourth bed. [bnc amd 1724] 

Keep hold of the wheel with both hands. 

Both children/both the children/both of the children had measles at the same time. 
He can write with either hand/with either o/his hands. 
Neither twin/ neither of the twins is very good at maths. 
Each player /Each of the players was given a premium. 

This applies to each of us - men as well as women. [bnc at9 192] 

Two out of every five people catch more than one cold a year. 
Every known criminal of New York was there. [bnc ate 1753] 

They went to visit her, as they did nearly every Sunday. 

All, both and each following pronouns 

These distributors can follow pronouns, whether subjective or objective, for emphasis: 

They all/both/each carried backpacks. 

We've bought them all/both bicycles. We've bought them each a bicycle. 

All of them have bicycles. Both of them have bicycles. Each of them has a bicycle. 

All, everything, everyone/everybody 

All is marginally used in formal styles as an alternative to everything to refer to a situation, 
ideas, objects, actions in general terms. 

All went well. Everything went well. 
All is ready. Everything is ready. 

All is much less common than everything and everyone in everyday English, however. 
Furthermore, it is not used as an elliptical head in Object and Complement functions, 
where it can be used with a pronoun. Compare: 

*I liked all. I liked everything. 1 liked it all. 

Everyone and everybody refer to all the people in a particular group. The notion of 
generality can be extended to wider groups and even everyone everywhere: 

Everyone enjoyed the show. 
He poured drinks for everybody. 


Everyone condemned the terrorist attack. 
Everyone has their own opinion. 

All is not normally used in this way, without a head or modifier. Compare: 

*A11 enjoyed the show. All those present enjoyed the show. 
*He poured drinks for all. He poured drinks for all present/ for us all/ for them 


All people is not an acceptable alternative to everyone/ everybody. All the people there 
would refer to definite people on a specific occasion, rather than the more general 
meaning of totality expressed by everyone. 

The following horoscope illustrates some of these quantifiers: 

Libra (Sep 24 - Oct 23) 

None of it matters quite as much as we think. All of it is a journey, a dream. 
Of course, it seems real. Dreams always do while we are dreaming them. This does 
not make life any the less precious. To the contrary. We should treasure every 
moment because we never know how many more moments we will have left. 
Yet sometimes, we cannot properly treasure each moment because we are too 
worried about making the most of our every moment. This weekend brings magic. 
Enjoy it. 


These words (except such) are sometimes classed as adjectives. However, they do not 
describe the referent and appear to have a specifying function. They precede either a 
definite or an indefinite determiner. 

Such and exclamatory what are among the few elements of this kind which precede 
the indefinite article. They require a(n) before a singular count noun, zero before non- 
count and plural nouns. 

Such classifies an entity by kind or intensifies it by degree. It usually relates to 
something already mentioned in the discourse. 

Classifying: (- of that kind) 

I've never heard of such an animal. 
Such cruelty is incomprehensible. 
Such people are dangerous 


Don't be such afool\ They are such idiots\ ( = of that degree) 


Certain, by contrast, follows a(n) or is followed by zero. It helps to pick out a specific, 
but as yet not identified, person or thing: 

There is a certain opposition to the Government's proposals. 
A certain person in this room might disagree with you. 

Same indicates that the person or thing referred to is exactly like one previously 

He always asks the same two questions. 

Another (+ singular count noun) has two meanings: it indicates that the entity referred 
to is different from one already mentioned; and it refers to a subsequent entity of the 
same kind as the one already mentioned in the discourse. The indefinite plural other 
(+ plural count noun) is used mainly in the first sense. 

Couldn't you choose another title? (= a different title) 

Would you like another beer? (= of the same kind, not of a different kind) 

I saw him the other day. We talked about other things. 

Former and latter refer back to the first and the second respectively of two entities 
already mentioned. They are preceded by the definite article and can occur together 
with the 's possessive determinative. 

Bill and Steve both made proposals. The former's was rejected, the latter's approved. 

Former is also used adjectivally with the meaning of 'previous' when referring to jobs, 
positions or roles. In this function it may be preceded by a possessive determinative 
such as my, your. 

A former President of the Royal Society. 

His former partner has set up business on his own. 

Note that such and the same can function as substitute heads (see 45.7.4), as in: 

Is this a dangerous area? I wouldn't consider it as such (= a dangerous area) 
Alice had a cola and Sue had the same (= a cola) 

In Spanish, for instance, instead of elmismo ('the same'), the pronoun otro ('another') is 


The following table summarises the four broad experiential types of determination by 
which referent things can be particularised in English, together with their subtypes and 
principal exponent. 


1 Defining and 

2 Quantifying and 

3 Numbering and 

4 Semi- 



Fractional (± of) 

half, (a) quarter, 


four-fifths, etc. 

a dozen, a thousand 


one, two, ten, two 
hundred, etc. 

such, certain, 
former, latter; 
same, other, 
last, next, own 


a(n), some 
zero (0) 

Multiplying (*of) 
double, treble, twice, 

hundreds of, 
thousands of, 
millions of 

three times, 


This, that, these, 




my, your, his, her, 


Sam's, my friend's 


some, any, no 
much, (a) little, 
(a) few, 
many, several, 

first, second, 
third . . . 


what, whose, 
which, whichever 

Other quantifiers 

A lot of, lots of, 
plenty of, 
a great deal of, 
a number of 


what (a) . . . 


all, both, either, 
each, every, 
none (of) 



The governing principle of placement of multiple determinatives is the same as that of 
a whole NG, that is, a gradual process of dependency selection from right to left, as in: 

Pre-determinatives Central 



and partitives 








a few of 





some of 

the doctor's 



none of 


















Here, from all dollars, we first select sixty; these are particularised as his last sixty dollars 
and of these we select half and say: 'He paid only half his last sixty dollars for his seat'. 



The pre-modifier 


1 The epithet and the classifier functions, realised by descriptors and classifiers, 

2 The epithet function is realised by adjectives and participles whose reference 
may be: descriptive: a popular disco, a sunny day, a galloping horse, an 
abandoned car 

evaluative: a princely meal, a v/7e crime 

either of the above: absolute zero, absolute rubbish 

3 The classifier function limits the entity to a subclass in relation to: 

affiliations: Indian art, French window, a Buddhist monk 

quality: a poisonous snake, a non-alcoholic drink 

norms: average age, standard size, top ten 

process: the rising tide, a growing population 

society and institutions: metropolitan police, a football club; social status 

technology: a nuclear power-station, electric light, solar energy 

4 Some words can function as either epithets or classifiers: civil: a civil manner 
(epithet); civil rights (classifier). 

5 The elements of a NG are organised in a relationship of successive dependency 
and selection, from the head leftwards to the classifier, the epithet and the 
determiner, and rightwards to the postmodifier, as indicated by the arrows in 
the following example: 

d<— e<h- clas. <— h— > fin. cl. 

that short summer course we attended 

6 The order of epithets is semantic and partly conventional, rather than 



The pre-modifier (experientially the epithet and the classifier) is different from the 
determiner in certain ways. While the determiner function is realised by closed class 
items which define and select the referent, the pre-modifier function describes or classi- 
fies the referent by means of open-class items, mainly adjectives and nouns. Unlike 
the determiner, these are optional. Furthermore, and again unlike determinatives, there 
is no grammatical constraint on the number of modifiers placed before a noun. The 
main types of structural element that either describe or classify are illustrated by 
examples from the art sale text ('Fairy Liquid') in Section 45.1, among others: 

Descriptor and classifier elements 

(a) adjectives smart rooms, low groans, a tall building, good weather (epithet); 

new rooms, digital camera (classifier) 

(b) en-participle well-dressed art-lovers (epithet), the acknowledged master, 

worn-out machinery, fallen leaves (classifiers) 

(c) /ng-participle a disappointing exam result/ finish (to a match), breathtaking 

speed (epithet); running water, a leading article, coming events 

(d) noun the flower market, a Paris cafe (classifier) 

In addition, the following are also used, though less commonly, as modifiers: 

(e) nominal group a no-frills airline 

(f) adverb the ffien President 

(g) coordinated clauses a take-it-or-leave-it attitude 

The true -en participial epithet derived from a verb, such as broken in a broken cup, 
must be distinguished from 'pseudo-participials', which are derived from nouns, 
as in: 

A dark-green, big-leaved, long-stemmed plant with orange flowers. 

Such pseudo-participials are often modified, as the modification represents some non- 
essential feature. We don't say *a leaved plant, *a haired girl, because plants normally 
have leaves and girls have hair. Not all leaves are big and not all girls' hair is dark, 
however, allowing the formation of big-leaved and dark-haired: a dark-haired girl. In a 
camera'ed bystander, by contrast, no modifier is needed because carrying a camera is 
not an essential feature of a bystander. 



In the epithet function the adjective is used to ascribe a quality (big, old, red, etc.) to the 
referent. This may be an objective quality (e.g. a square box, a round table, a blue truck, 
old magazines) while others are subjective and represent the speaker's or writer's 
attitude towards the referent (good, bad, nice, stupid, lovely, horrible, etc.). 

The subjective-objective distinction is not as clear as we might think, however. The 
act of appreciation is bound to be subjective, because the quality is inevitably presented 
through the eyes of the speaker, and yet the appreciation is objectivised because it 
is related to some cultural norm. Some 'objective' qualities are culture-specific. What 
counts as a tall man or a narrow street in one culture may not appear to be so to 
members of another. 

Adjectival epithets expressing objective qualities may simply 'describe' an entity (/ 
bought a small bottle) or 'define' it (/ bought the small bottle). The meaning in both is clearly 
'experiential' in that it denotes a quality experienced by everyone in the culture and 
denoted by the word 'small'. The two semantic functions of describing and defining are 
reflected in the grammar by the a/ the contrast. That is to say, the terms 'descriptive' 
and 'defining' don't refer to two subclasses of adjectives, but to two potential functions 
of most objective adjectives. 

The defining function of an epithet is different from the classifying function, as 
illustrated in the following extract from Paul Gallico's The Silent Hostages: 

The car carrying the two escaped* killers, Rickman and Hoser, nosed carefully into 
the unidentified 2 desert town. It was that darkest 3 hour before dawn of a moonless, 4 
starlit 5 night. Rickman, the more vicious'' man, driving, with cold, 7 snake-like 8 eyes 
and bloodless'' mouth. 

Since they had murdered their three hostages, they had been attempting to find their 
way towards the Mexican™ border, driving without lights on back roads and wagon 

,_3 defining; ""'descriptive; 'defining; 7_9 descriptive; '"classifying 

The attitudinal epithet expresses the speaker's or writer's subjective evaluation of the 
referent, and is interpersonal, rather than experiential. There are two broad kinds of 

appreciative: good, wonderful, heavenly (a good film, an intelligent remark) 
pejorative: bad, idiotic, monstrous, appalling (a horrible film, a. foolish remark) 

Certain adjectives can be used both to describe objectively and to express attitude: 

Descriptive Attitudinal 

a poor part of the city Poor you! Poor little boy! 

a huge piece of machinery The show was a huge success. 


Epithets used attitudinally don't usually have the potential to define the referent of the 
noun, as is usual with the objective use of adjectives. The superlative preceded by the, 
with attitudinal adjectives, for instance, simply intensifies the effect but does not define. 
Compare: We saw the sweetest little girl/ the most horrible film (attitudinal) with we saw the 
poorest part of the city (objective). 

Attitudinal adjectives are usually placed before descriptive ones: a marvellous sunny 
day; a sickly greenish yellow. They also tend to be preceded or followed by others which 
express similar or related meanings and so reinforce or intensify the attitude or emotion 
in question: 

a lumbering great lorry 
that splendid, delicious meal 

a whopping big lie 
a sweet little girl 

So although these two uses of certain adjectives have different communicative effects, 
they are not always easy to distinguish, and we should not think of epithets as divided 
into two rigid sets called 'descriptive' and 'attitudinal'. 

We will use the symbol e for both attitudinal and descriptive uses, distinguishing 
these from the classifier (clas). 

If we divide the determinative features of a referent entity into the two broad types 
- defining/ deictic (d d ) and numerative/ quantifying (d q ) - we can now give some idea, 
in the following tree, of the experiential structure of the NG as we have described it so 
far, and without including the post-modifier described in Module 49: 



/ \ 

cK dq 

those two 

lovely tall 

Strictly speaking, it is not an adjective but an adjectival group that can modify the 
head noun. This will be considered again in Chapter 1 1 . For the present we simply point 
out that many adjectives can be pre-modified by an intensifier, as in a very tall building, 
and post-modified, as in a very exciting thing to do. 

Multiple epithets 

Sequences of two epithets (mainly adjectives and participles) are found in many types 
of speech and writing. Strings of three, four or five epithets can have a rather marked 
effect. They are common in certain genres, such as advertisements, especially personal 
classified ads, as the second and fourth below, from The Times [square brackets enclose 
other elements]: 


Two items: long, winding roads; hard, stale cheese 

Three items: exotic, exciting, focused female [seeks professional male, 38+, to 

live life to the max with] 
Four items: [what an] absurd, cruel, strange, mad thing [to do] 
Five items: educated, kind, slightly mad, solvent, good-looking gent, [53, 

seeks partner for long-term relationship] 

Adjectives functioning as multiple epithets may be coordinated or subordinated. 

Coordinated epithets (without a coordinator) were illustrated in the previous 
examples. Below are examples of coordinated adjectives (with a coordinator: and, or, 
either . . . or, but, yet) and subordinated ones: 

Co-ordinated: and good and bad camping-sites 

or hot or cold meals 

either . . . or either white or light blue shirts 

but a long but interesting trip 

yet a strange yet friendly person 

Subordinated: an enlightening //heated discussion 

a disappointing though not unexpected result 

Epithets, like classifiers, can be sub-modified: slightly mad, very good-looking. 


Epithets are not necessarily ordered in a relation of dependency, as classifiers are (see 
48.5). Neverthless, their order of occurrence is not totally free, and various suggestions 
have been offered of preferred orderings: 

attributes of size, age, shape and colour usually occur in that order: a large, 

rectangular, black box. 

de-verbal adjectives (i.e. derived from verbs) before denominal ones (derived 

from nouns; see 51.2), as in: an attractive, ambitious woman. 

short adjectives before long ones, as in: a small, pretty, well-kept garden. 

well-known words before less common ones: a strange, antediluvian monster. 

the most forceful or 'dynamic' adjective tends to be placed at the end: a sudden, 

loud, ear-splitting crash; such sequences are also felt to be more satisfying 

rhythmically, compared with an ear-splitting, loud, sudden crash. 

We shall return to the ordering of pre-modifiers in the following section, since many 
sequences are mixed, consisting of both epithets and classifiers. 



The function of the classifier is to sub-classify the noun referent; for instance, dental 
treatment is a subclassification of medical treatment, dental contrasting with other 
sub-domains of medicine. Although certain words can function as both epithets and 
classifiers, these functions can normally be distinguished by the following criteria: 

(a) Classifiers are not gradable, as descriptive adjectives are; that is, they don't admit 
degrees of comparison or intensity; we can't say *more dental treatment' , *very dental 
treatment, as we can with descriptors: more effective treatment, very effective 

(b) Classifiers tend to be organised into mutually exclusive sets, as in presidential 
election, the presidential airplane (AmE), which contrast with other elections and 
airplanes (BrE aircraft) not relative to a president or a presidency. Another set in a 
different domain, that of ways of cooking eggs, includes fried, boiled, poached, 
scrambled [eggs]. 

(c) The classifier function is realised by adjectives, nouns, participles, ordinal numbers 
and, to a lesser extent, adverbs, phrases and clauses. We shall illustrate these in 


Adjectives as classifiers are frequently derived from nouns and restrict the noun head 
in relation to another referent. There is a wide variety of relations expressed, including: 

(a) affiliations to national, political or religious groups, such as: African, American, British, 
Buddhist, Canadian, Chinese, Christian, Conservative, Dutch, French, German, 
Indian, Liberal, Muslim, Norwegian, Russian, Socialist, Swiss (all written with a 
capital letter); 

(b) related to norms, sequences, sizes, ratings, scales, for example: average, chief, main, 
standard, regular, top; previous, following, initial, final; personal, particular, external, 

(c) related to areas of study, art, science and institutions, as in the following examples: 

affiliations: African politics, Swedish voters, the Conservative party; 

norms, ratings: average age, regular doctor, standard size, top ten, main 

road, personal contribution, particular occasion; 
time, place: former boss; old friend; previous page; left leg; right hand; 

periods: prehistoric remains, modern times, classical music; 

institutions: municipal authorities, industrial unrest, metropolitan 

professions: medical student, social worker, agricultural expert; 

devices: atomic energy, digital watch, mobile phone (BrE)/ 

(AmE cell phone). 
processes: Both -ing and -en participles classify an entity by a process: 

coming events, sun-dried tomatoes 


Here too, a participle + noun may be a compound: guided missile, leading article. The 
-ing classifiers mentioned here are different from de-verbal nouns such as boxing as in 
boxing-gloves, snorkling gear, reading materials, which belong to the noun class. 

When the adjective and noun are written as one word, as in software, hardware, they 
are compounds, referring to a single class referent, not to a subtype of a class. The same 
may happen with separate or hyphenated words: fancy dress, fast-food, first-aid. 

A noun as classifier functions in a similar way to an adjective, delimiting the 
referent according to membership of a mutually exclusive set (e.g. ham sandwich, bacon 

Types of noun classifier 

simple (apple blossom) 

genitive (a girls' school) 

compound {farmyard animals) 

short NGs (Social Security contributions) 

The classifying function of a genitive noun or NG, as in The Minister gave a typical Minister 
of Labour's reply, must be distinguished from its determiner function as in the Minister of 
Labour's reply. 

Nouns as classifiers are not usually pluralised: trouser belt, car production, rebel 
forces, but certain plural nouns are regularly used, including women drivers; sales 
campaign. Plural forms are also used when the referent of the classifier has come to be 
regarded as a collective noun, as in arms race, sports field, Olympic Games medal, the Arts 

When the semantic relation between a classifier and a noun is very cohesive, they 
frequently become fused as a noun compound denoting a single referent, rather than 
a subclass of a larger class of referents. The dividing line between a noun modifier + 
noun and a noun compound is not entirely clear. Punctuation, as we have seen, provides 
only a rough guideline to the degree of integration achieved by the two nouns. 

When the combination is written as separate words, it is likely to be a noun with a 
noun modifier (head waiter); if written as a single word it is more likely to be a noun com- 
pound (headache, headrest). Hyphenation signals those elements which form a compound 
(walkie-talkie) and which otherwise would appear to be separate pre-modifiers. This is 
a useful guide with units occurring within a larger unit (high-rise block, high-speed bullet 

Stress-patterning is not always reliable. Compounds are said to have the tonic stress 
on the first noun. However, many compounds do not follow this pattern (cotton wool, 
zebra crossing), while some classifiers do (steam vehicles, rose-bush). 

The factor that best distinguishes noun classifiers from noun compounds is that 
classifiers can enter into relations of coordination and modification. Compare: 

Coordinated classifiers Modified classifier 

new and second-hand stereos brand-new stereos 

European and local councils various agricultural colleges 

Lunch and dinner menus early Chinese pottery 

plane or coach trips modern sculpture techniques 


silk and cotton shirt 
bus and coach stations 

pure silk shirt 
inter-city coach station 

Compound nouns do not admit coordination or modification of their component 

*soft and hardware 
*pain and insect killers 
*silk and earth worms 

*extremely software 
*persistent painkiller 
*pure silkworm 

Classification by other classes of units 

Certain institutionalised word, group and clausal expressions are sometimes used: 

morpheme: pro- and anti-abortionists 

adverb: an only child, an away match 

PP: over-the-counter sales, on-line editing 

NG: a New Year's Eve party 

VG: a stop-and-go policy, a live-and-let-live philosophy 

AdjG: a bored-with-life attitude 

clause: a couldn't-care-less attitude. 

Phrasal modifiers are used daily in many practical registers of English. The following 
short example occurred in the report of a meeting called to prepare an English language 
examination of the Royal Society of Arts: 

It was decided that section 1 of the examination would involve no-choice short- 
answer questions, and section 2 an essay-style question on language systems. The 
group felt that the candidates should also be required to submit six non-exam-type 
pieces of work done at home. 


Many words can function as both epithets and classifiers. Some classifiers can be 
modified and then lose their classifier function: a very French lady. 


fresh bread (= freshly made) 
a sick person 

new houses (= recently built) 
to do that would be criminal 
a medieval state of sanitation 
a provincial attitude 


fresh water (i.e. not salty, not sea-water) 

sick pay, sick leave 

new rooms (new to the occupier) 

the criminal court 

a medieval castle 

a provincial town 



Classifiers are related by coordination or dependency. A lot is left implicit in classifier 
+ noun combinations, and with more than two elements the complexity increases. 

Related by coordination 

The History and Geography Faculty Apple and blackberry tart 

The Management and Finance Committee A plane and coach trip 

The singular head noun indicates that there is only one Faculty, committee, tart and 
trip, each of a dual kind. Ambiguity may arise if the head noun is plural. For example, 
plane and coach trips could refer to several trips of a plane + coach type, or to plane 
trips separate from coach trips, analysed as : [[plane and coach] trips] or [[plane] and 
[coach] trips]], respectively. 

Related by dependency 

Sequences of two classifiers can occur before a noun head, as in the following: 

chrome bathroom fittings 
Madrid terrorist bombings 

In these examples the semantic relations can be inferred directly as increasing 
dependency from the head noun towards the left. That is, chrome modifies bathroom 
fittings, not bathroom, and Madrid, in the actual sense used, modified the terrorist 
bombings. This combination is ambiguous, however, as another reading could be 
'bombings by Madrid terrorists'. 

It is common, then, to find combinations in which either the classifier or the head is 
itself sub-modified, or rather, sub-classified, as in the following examples: 

Sub-modified classifier Sub-modified head 

dining-car service pocket address book 

state school pupils The Observer book reviews 

two-litre plastic jug Italian graduate students 

hard-boiled eggs Australian ostrich eggs 

In fact, both head and classifier may be sub-modified: Human Rights Select Committee; 
two hard-boiled Australian ostrich eggs. 

Such combinations reflect cultural realities. In everyday contexts as well as in more 
specialised areas of knowledge and activity, there is a tendency in English to 'encap- 
sulate' experiences, devices and phenomena of all kinds into short but complex NGs. 
The 'telescoped' effect of such ordered sequences means that, on a first encounter, not 
only non-native speakers but also natives sometimes have to put in some inferencing 
to work out the semantic relations. 


In medical, political and other institutionalised contexts, the NG is often represented 
as an acronym, that is, initial letters which themselves are pronounced as a word, or, if 
that is not possible, as initials: 

NATO: North Atlantic Treaty Organisation 

AIDS: Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome 

TEFL Teaching English as a Foreign Language 

VIP: Very Important Person 

Note that with reference to the AIDS sequence, 'Acquired' does not modify 'Immune' 
but 'Immune Deficiency'. 


Between the head of a NG and the other elements, there is one basic logical relationship, 
that of successive dependency: leftwards from the head to the pre-head elements and 
rightwards in the case of the post-head elements, as indicated by the arrows in the 
following example: 


those beautiful 



Within this logical framework, speakers seem to use semantic criteria, based on 
degrees of permanence and objectivity, to decide the order of pre-modifiers. Those 
properties perceived as permanent, intrinsic and undisputed are placed nearest the head 
of the nominal group. Those that are more variable, subjective or attitudinal are placed 
further from the head. 

Immediately to the left of the head is the classifier, since this is the closest relationship, 
as in Persian rugs, radio programme, park entrance, leather suitcases. 

Where there is more than one classifier, affiliation precedes substance as in German 
leather suitcases, Indian lamb curry. If there is no affiliation, substance precedes other 
classifiers (steel medical instrument, cotton gardening gloves). 

The next place, moving to the left, is occupied by colour adjectives, and before 
them come any participial modifiers (battered brown German leather suitcases, stained 
blue plumbers' overalls). Preceding these are the most central adjectives, such as 
tall, young, long, hot (for ordering of these, see 48.3). At the start of the list are the 
attitudinal adjectives - such as beautiful, ugly, marvellous, horrible, nice, nasty - after any 
determinatives. This is the unmarked order, which causes us to say: 

a large oil tanker 

increased income tax rebates 

and not *an oil large tanker 

and not *income increased tax rebates 


a beautiful blue silk scarf and not *a silk beautiful blue scarf 

a nice hot Indian curry and not *a hot Indian nice curry 

Participial modifiers can occupy various positions. Those that are verbal nouns, such 
as gardening in gardening gloves, always stay close to the head noun, whereas those that 
have become gradable adjectives, such as interested, bored, exciting, may occur nearer 
the determinative, if there is one. If the participial seems to have an evaluative tinge, it 
is even more likely to precede other adjectives: 

interested foreign spectators 
an exciting new adventure story 
a battered old leather suitcase 




The post-modifier 


1 The post-modifier elements of the nominal group either provide information that 
helps to identify the referent of the nominal group, or else they add 
supplementary information not essential for identifying it. 

2 Most of the units (clauses, phrases, groups) which occur in post-head position 
of the NG can be either restrictive (integrated) or non-restrictive (sup- 
plementive). Restrictive post-modifier units are embedded in the structure of 
the NG and have the function of helping to identify the referent of the NG 
among other possible referents. Non-restrictive units are not embedded in the 
NG structure. Their function is to add supplementary information to a referent 
which is already defined. These units are classed as supplementives. 

3 The post-modifier is realised by a wide variety of units, including the following, 
which are here used restrictively: 

PPs the house on the corner, a new album by a 

top musician 

finite relative clauses the man who is standing in the corridor 

non-finite relative clauses the man standing in the corridor [-ing cl.) 
the man to consult is Jones (fo-inf. cl.) 
the fax sent this morning (-en cl.) 

adj or adjG a room full of furniture; the best hotel available 

adverb the flat upstairs 

apposition NG my friend the doctor 

reflexive pronoun the doctor himself 

4 Complements of nouns are a different type of post-modifier element. 



The post-modifier elements have two basic communicative functions: 

(a) to supply information enabling the hearer/reader to specify and identify the person 
or thing referred to by the NG, as in: 

1 This is the house where the Prime Minister lives. 

(b) to add supplementary information about the referent when it has already been 
identified, as in: 

2 This is Number 10 Downing Street, where the Prime Minister lives. 

These two roles or functions are encoded as restrictive (or defining) and non-restrictive 
(or non-defining) units, respectively. In 1 , the restrictive type, the clause where the Prime 
Minister lives is integrated (embedded) within the nominal group structure. Its function 
is to identify the house where the Prime Minister lives from all other possible houses. 

When the referent is already identified or assumed to be known, as in 2, the non- 
restrictive unit is subordinate but not embedded. Its function is to add descriptive, 
supplementary information. Thus the same clause where the Prime Minister lives does not 
identify the house where the Prime Minister lives in 2, because Number 10, Downing 
Street is already identified or assumed to be known. Rather, it makes a linked, but 
separate assertion and has the status of a supplementive. 

The difference between the two types of unit is marked both prosodically and in 
writing. Restrictive units such as 1 are not separated from their antecedent by either 
pauses or punctuation. By contrast, non-restrictive units are usually written between 
commas, dashes or brackets and pronounced between short pauses as separate 
information units (33.2). Punctuation is not a hundred per cent reliable, however and 
it is possible that prosodic features such as pauses are not generalised either. We shall 
see further distinguishing characteristics in the section on relative clauses (49.3) 


Most of the various units that occur as post-modifiers or as complements of the noun 
(see p. 348 and Module 50) can be either restrictive or non-restrictive. We shall look at 
each type in turn, starting with the restrictive. 

Restrictive (embedded] realisations of the post-modifier 

The post-modifier is realised by a wide range of units, including clauses, phrases and 

Type of unit Example 

1 finite relative clause Perhaps the people who were waiting are 

still there. 


non-finite clauses 
to-infinitive clauses 
-ing clause 
-en clause 
prepositional phrase 

adjectival group 
adverbial group 
appositive NG 
reflexive pronoun 
noun complement clause 

9 PP complement 

It's time to say good night, there's nothing to eat 
an envelope containing a white powdery substance 
spring water bottled in the Malvern hills 
a policeman on a motor-cycle, a new album by a 

top musician 
a box full of screwdrivers and spanners 
the Prime Minister's speech yesterday 
our son Barney; the explorer Marco Polo 
the Americans themselves 
expectations that we'll win the Cup; their plans to 

go on strike 
reliance on public transport; a threat to our 


Non-restrictive (supplementivej realisations of the post-head element 
1 finite relative clause 

2 non-finite clauses 
-ing clause 

-en clause 

3 prepositional phrase 

4 adjectival group 

5 circumstantial clause 

6 appositive NG 

7 verbless clause 

8 complement clause 

A meeting was arranged with the gypsies, who 
were allowed to stay until the 24th of July 

[bnc bpk 1301] 

. . . and the taps, gleaming as gold, were 

surrounded by a platoon of little bottles and 

cases, all matching [bnc ecu 2433] 

the enormous volume, dedicated to his wife, lay on 

the desk 
The departure time, at 5 a.m., was uncomfortably 

and he opened out the big, blue toolbox, full of 

screwdrivers and spanners 
We were all just trying to get through high school 

so we could hurry up and get to college, where, 

we'd heard, things were better 

(All American Girl) 
our youngest son, Barney; Marco Polo, the explorer 
and the Minister, himself a Quaker, made no 

her life-long wish, to own a horse, was at last 


Complements of nouns, whether restrictive or non-restrictive, differ from post-modifiers 
in being controlled by the noun and are dealt with separately in Module 50. 



49.3.1 The relativisers 

Finite relative clauses are introduced by a relative pronoun or adverb (called a 
relativiser). English uses several different relativisers: who, whom, whose, which, that, 
where, when, why and zero (0). The relativiser refers back to the head of the nominal 
group, which is termed the antecedent, for example, 'people' in the people who were 

Who (objective whom) is used after an animate, particularly a human, head noun. 
The relativiser who is not omitted when it functions as subject in the relative clause: 

Perhaps the people who were waiting are still there, (perhaps *the people were waiting 
are still there) 

The only exceptions are introduced by unstressed there or by a cleft. They are on the 
borderline between dialectal and very colloquial speech, and are not obligatory uses: 

There's a man outside (0) wants to speak to you. 
It was John (0) told me about you. 

Whom is always used when it directly precedes a preposition, as in 1 . This is a formal 
use. In less formal speech and writing whom is commonly avoided by 'stranding' the 
preposition (see 6.3.3) and replacing whom by who, that or zero, as in 2. Compare: 

1 the students with whom I share aflat. 

2 the students who I share a flat with/ that I share a flat with/ (0) I share a flat with 

Which is used with inanimate heads in both subject and object functions in the relative 
clause, and before a preposition. The same alternatives are open for which as for whom: 

the matter which concerns us at present (subject) 

there is one matter which I must bring up (object) 

Their life was one for which she was unprepared, (following a preposition) 

Their life was one that/ which /(0) she was unprepared for. 

That is used in both subject and object functions and for both animate and inanimate 
heads in integrated relative clauses. It is a useful alternative to who(m) and which when 
the speaker prefers to avoid the animate-inanimate distinction: 

The large Alsatian that lives next door is rather fierce. 

However, that is not normally used after a personal proper name, as such a use is 
typically non-restrictive (see below). Neither is that used following a preposition. 

As a relative pronoun, that is more common than which in spoken and in much written 
English, but which is said to be more common than that in academic writing. When the 
antecedent is a demonstrative pronoun, that tends to be avoided ( What's that [that] you 


have there?}, zero being preferred over both that and which ( What's that [0] you have there?). 
When the antecedent is an indefinite pronoun, that is more common than which in subject 
function (Anything that might happen . . .) whereas zero is common in object function 
(Everything [0] we know . . .). 

Zero (that is, the non-use of the relative pronouns whom, which or that) is common 
practice when these pronouns function as object in the relative clause. Compare the 
various options, ranging from most formal to informal, in the following example: 

the girl to whom I lent my coat 
the girl whom I lent my coat to 
the girl that I lent my coat to 
the girl (0) / lent my coat to 

When and where as relativisers introduce circumstantial information, of time and place 
respectively: the place where he was born; the time when he's sure to be at home. 

Why occurs as a relative only after the noun 'reason' and the like - cause, explanation, 
excuse: There's no reason why we shouldn 't befriends. 

Whose is the possessive form and is used not only to refer to animate head nouns 
but also to inanimates, as a shorter alternative to of which + determiner. 

children whose parents both go out to work 
the houses whose roofs were in need of repair. 

49.3.2 Features of the restrictive relative clause 

The restrictive relative integrates with the head noun together with its pre-modifiers to 
form a larger unit, syntactically, prosodically and semantically. 

Syntactically it is embedded in the NG matrix structure. 

Prosodically, it shares the intonation contour of its antecedent, as the two together 

constitute one information unit: 

They admitted the immigrants who had their papers in order. (= only the immigrants 

who had their papers in order) 

Semantically, the restrictive relative is an integral part of the meaning of the whole 

nominal group. It helps to establish what (or whom) the speaker is talking about. It 

picks out the referent(s) from other possible referents by some distinguishing 

property; in this case, that only the immigrants who had their papers in order were 


The larger NG unit with its relative clause can be expanded by a further relative 


The umbrella 1 we bought 2 that has a duck's head handle made a good present. 

Restrictive relatives are not common after proper names, as their referents are normally 
already identified. However, they can serve to distinguish between two referents with 
the same name (by treating them as common nouns), as in: 

Do you mean the Toledo which is in Spain or the Toledo in the United States? 


49.3.3 Features of the non-restrictive relative clause 

Unlike restrictive (integrated) relative clauses, non-restrictive relative clauses are not 
embedded in the matrix nominal group. Although they are marked as subordinate by a 
relativiser, they are parentheticals which have considerable semantic independence. 

Prosodically, they don't share the intonation contour of the matrix clause. Instead, 
they have their own intonation contour, which constitutes an independent information 

They admitted the immigrants, who had their papers in order. 

They don't identify one referent from other possible referents. The antecedent is already 
restricted and the clause is complete. The immigrants is a delimited subset of immigrants. 
Consequently, unlike integrated relatives, non-restrictive relatives can have as 
antecedent a proper noun or name which identifies a particular person or persons, 
object(s) or institution(s). The pronouns used are who, whom, whose and which, rarely 

I'll give the CD to Ben, who likes music. (*that likes music) 

The injured child was taken to Alderhey Children's Hospital, which is in Wavertree. 

Semantically, the non-restrictive clause is not an integral part of the NG. As the 
antecedent is already defined, the supplementive provides additional new information 
which is not essential, but may explain or elaborate on the content of the previous clause. 
When placed medially, the non-restrictive relative is enclosed: 

Plans for the new airport, which will cope with ten times the present air traffic, are now 

under way. 
You would think that my dad, who is an international economist with the World Bank, 

would understand this. (All American Girl) 

It makes an independent statement, which is an extension of the already complete unit. 
As such, non-restrictive relatives are increasingly found functioning as freestanding 
subordinate clauses, which may initiate a new paragraph in written discourse. (See also 
33.2 for spoken examples of 'sentential' relatives, whose antecedent is the whole clause.) 

And into the room walked David, the President's son. 

Who also happened to be David from my drawing class with Susan Boone. 

(All American Girl) 



-ing clauses and -en clauses 

He wrote a book containing his reminiscences of five U.S. Presidents. 

The book also described his own life as a press officer serving them in the White 
House. [Libra, journal of Foyle's Lid) 

The value of these restrictive -ing clauses is similar to that of a finite relative clause: a 
book that contained . . . a press officer who had served them. However, in such cases, the 
participle is not to be interpreted as an abbreviated progressive, as is proved by the fact 
that contain is a state verb and does not combine with the progressive: *the book was 
containing. As we saw in Chapter 7, the -ing form is, in many constructions, an economical 
resource for expressing relationships where tense or aspect do not need to be further 

This property of the -ing, as also the -en clauses, which are always passive, is 
particularly evident in their non-restrictive function as supplementives. 

-ing clauses He was sent several letters, all containing a white, powdery substance. 
The stained-glass windows, illustrating biblical scenes, are splendid. 

-erf-clauses The enormous volume, dedicated to his wife, lay on the desk. 

to-infinitive clauses - nothing to fear 

As post-modifiers, to-infinitive clauses can correspond to full relative clauses in which 
the relative pronoun is S, Od or C: 

S The next train to arrive at Platform 5 is the express train to York 
(= the train which/that will arrive) 

Od They have nothing to eat. (= nothing which they can eat) 

The man to consult is Jones. (= the man whom /that you should consult is 

C The commonest kind of worker to become nowadays is an unemployed one. 
(= The commonest kind of worker that one can become) 


49.5.1 Prepositional phrases 

This is by far the commonest class of circumstantial post-modifier used in English NGs. 
It is also the most economical. The listed examples are all restrictive, except the last, 
which is non-restrictive (supplementive): 


the concert on Monday a clown with a red nose 
the plane from Oslo a job for the experts 

a ticket to Paris the man in the dark suit 

the end of the story the back wheels of the car 

The departure time, at 5 o'clock in the morning, was uncomfortably early for most 
passengers, (non-restrictive) 

Multiple PP post-modifiers can be either coordinated or embedded: 

The path over the cliffs and down to the beach, (coordinated) 

Those books [on the top shelf [of the bookcase [in my bedroom]]], (embedded) 

49.5.2 Adjectival groups 

Single adjectives are rarely used as post-modifiers and are limited to the following types: 

a small number of fixed expressions, the relic of a French structure: a court martial, 
the devil incarnate, from time immemorial; 

after certain pronominal heads: those present, something nice, nobody interesting; 
adjectives placed after a modified noun head, but which modify the modifier, not 
the head: the worst time possible - the worst possible, not *the time possible. The 
close relationship between worst and possible is shown by the possibility of placing 
them together as an epithet: the worst possible time. 

Adjectival group post-modifiers usually contain their own modifier elements: 

We chose the solution most likely to succeed. 
He always wore socks full of holes. 

In supplementive verbless clauses, coordinated or post-modified adjectives are said 
to be more acceptable than single ones. Thus, the single adjective in 1 is less likely than 
the longer, coordinated structure in 2: 

1 The other candidates, confident, all passed the test. 

2 The other candidates, confident and well-prepared, all passed the test. 

But see the following extract from an article by Jeremy Clarkson in The Sunday 
Times, which illustrates the use of various supplementive units. Adjectival groups are 

Here's a game you might like to try next time you're in America. Go into a Denny's 
restaurant and see if you can order breakfast in such a way that the waitress can 
ask no supplementary questions. 

It's very hard. Denny's offers a vast range of everything, all of which can be 
cooked in ways you haven't even dreamed of. Take eggs: they can be soft-boiled. 


hard-boiled, scrambled, sunny-side up, sunny-side down, easy over, over easy, easy 
easy, over there or poached. So you have to be specific. 

'Hello, I'd like a table, wooden preferably , for two, in the smoking section, and I 
would like to eat four rashers of bacon, cris py , two eggs, sunny-side up, rye bread, 
sausages, no grits, no water, no hash browns, and coffee, with milk, semi-skimmed , 
and two level teaspoons of sugar, not sweetener.' 

You'll sit back, confident that you've covered all the bases . But you haven't, have 
you? You didn't say whether you wanted sausage links or sausage patties, and the 
waitress is going to pounce on that. So you lose. 

49.5.3 Adverbial groups 

Adverbial group heads used to post-modify nouns express notions such as space, time 
and reason. In many cases they may be analysed as ellipted adverbial groups or clauses: 

place: Is this the way out? 

time: He came, and left the week after. 

reason: She fell out with her sister, but I never knew the reason why. 

Relative adverbial clauses as post-modifiers 

The relative adverbs where, when and why introduce clauses which post-modify nouns 
denoting places, times or reasons. Where and when have corresponding supplementive 
uses. The examples with why, however, do not correspond in function. In 3b why is a 
supplementive headless relative in apposition with 'the mystery'. 



1 a She took her degree at the university 
where she was studying. 

2a The week when the exams take 
place, 1 intend to be ill. 

3a The reason why 1 ask is very simple. 

1 b She took her degree at London 

University, where she was studying. 

2 b The week after, when the exams took 

place, 1 was ill. 

3 b And the mystery, why the numbers 

were changed, was never solved. 

The relative adverbs when and why, but rarely where, can be replaced by that or zero 
in restrictive clauses: 

In the week (that) the exams take place . . . 

The reason (that) I ask you . . . 

The town where I was born but not *The town that I was born. 

Zero is also common after the head noun way: That's not the way (0) we do it here. 


49.5.4 Appositive nominal groups 

The closest post-modifying relationship is that between the head of a NG and an 
appositive unit, that is, a nominal unit that has the same referent. The relation between 
them and the head noun may be integrated (my friend the doctor . . .) or supplementive 
(my friend, the doctor I told you about . . .). 

The following are some of the appositive relationships these may express: 

definition: My friend the doctor. 

naming: The explorer Marco Polo. 

role: Thierry Henry, Arsenal's leading goal-scorer. 

description: Chivalry, the dominant idea of the medieval ruling classes, 

was symbolised by the Round Table, nature's perfect shape, 
particularisation: The members voted for a change in the statutes: the election 

of the chairman by popular vote. 
identity: We British; Me Tarzan, you Jane. 


Post-modification of the noun head can be realised by a wide variety of units, including 
clauses. Futhermore, the units can freely expanded. When units of different types are 
used, a common-sense criterion is to avoid ambiguous or incongruent sequences. 

The following is an example of a pronominal head ('something') which has as post- 
modifier a single finite relative clause, some of whose elements are realised more than 
once. Embedding is indicated here by a bracket, and coordination by '+': 

The other night, on television, I saw SOMETHING [which reminded me of the 
Spaniards [going into South America + and advancing over the mountains + and 
terrifying the population with terrible new weapons, + cannon + and the horse 
[which nobody [in their world] had ever seen]]]. 

A different organisation of successive post-modification is used in the following sentence 
which describes a system of grants which, sadly, no longer holds in the UK. In the 
sentence each of the two NGs, EVERY STUDENT and A GRANT, is post-modified by 
three coordinated units: AdjG + PP + non-restrictive relative clause in the case of the 
first, and PP + two relative clauses in the case of the second. Three of these six modifiers 
contain embedded units of their own: 

Virtually every STUDENT 

[normally resident in England or Wales], 

[with specified minimum qualifications], 

[who is admitted to a full-time degree, [at a university [in the UK]]] 
is entitled to a GRANT 

[from his/ her Local Education Authority], 

[which is intended to cover his/ her TUITION FEES AND MAINTENANCE 
[for the duration [of the course] 

[and which also includes AN ELEMENT [towards his/ her vacation 




The relation between two post-modifying units may be potentially ambiguous in NGs 
such as Those books on the table which you bought, which can represent two different 

coordinated Those books [on the table] [which you bought.] 
embedded Those books on the table [which you bought]